Brad Keller. (Photo by Bill Meredith)
There may not be a better Palm Beach County-based jazz instrumentalist than pianist Delray Beach resident Brad Keller, but he certainly played the field musically beforehand.
“I started as a vocal major in college,” he says. “I was going to be an opera singer until we all found out I wasn’t good enough. So I studied piano at Broward Community College and Florida State University, which served to teach me that I actually despised music education. When I was 28, my friend Bonnie Rossa and I decided to go get jazz degrees at Florida Atlantic University, but I didn’t feel I was good enough to play jazz. So I played pop music, then became a singing jazz pianist about 10 years later before deciding I was more comfortable playing without singing.”
The versatile Keller’s early local forays into jazz included playing piano, synthesizer and organ with all-star group MVP (with saxophonist Bobby Tynes, bassist Phil McArthur, drummer Ettienne Fuentes and percussionist David Schanzer), and jazz piano in a duo with female vocalist SAMM.
Influenced by pianists Oscar Peterson, Red Garland, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner — as well as horn players Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Michael Brecker — Keller’s playing advanced enough for him to be hired by jazz luminaries like Maynard Ferguson, Duffy Jackson, Red Rodney, Othello Molineaux, and Ira Sullivan. He’s currently working on a jazz trio CD with bassist Patrick Bettison and drummer Jean Bolduc.
Piano is a tradition within the Long Island native’s family. Father Jack Keller (1921-2003) was a renowned pianist, trombonist, arranger, and commercial jingles composer. Uncle Allen Keller, who died only last month at age 90, played piano in the house band at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City during the 1940s, allowing him to perform with guests like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
Ironically, considering his reluctance toward music ed, Keller also got a teaching certificate at FAU. He’s made good use of it since, imparting lessons taught to him by family members, among others.
“I’ve been teaching for 27 years,” Keller says, “I’ve been an adjunct jazz piano instructor for 10 years at Palm Beach State College, and I’ve taught students in all grades, full-time, for four years at Eldridge Gale Elementary in Wellington.”
See Brad Keller at 8 p.m. Thursday for a Palm Beach State College faculty concert at the Duncan Theatre, 4200 S. Congress Ave., Lake Worth (561-868-3309), at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 6, 13 and 27 with vocalist/reed player Greg Diaz at the Sundy House, 106 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach (561-272-5678), at 9 p.m. on Feb. 7, 14, 21 & 28 with the Remedy Jazz Quartet at the Blue Anchor, 804 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach (561-272-7272), and with Louis Armstrong impersonator Troy Anderson at 11 a.m. on Feb. 18 at Alamo Park, 1611 N.W. 12th Ave., Miami (305-531-0038), 9 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Blue Jean Blues, 3320 N.E. 33rd St., Fort Lauderdale (954-306-6330), and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton (561-347-3948).
Coined by the nickname Bugs Bunny used impersonating Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, Elegant Mess (www.facebook.com/elegantmesswpb) features lead singer Melinda Elena, guitarist/vocalist Todd Deason, bassist Ron DeSaram and drummer/vocalist J.C. Dwyer portraying themselves on rocking originals composed by Elena and Deason, plus capably covering artists from Jimi Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz to Green Day and Imagine Dragons, at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Island Jack’s, 4449 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach (561-687-2122), at 8 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Hurricane, 640 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach (561-278-0282), and at 8 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the White Elephant, 12794 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington (561-469-1109).
Broward County’s most versatile vocalist, Dana Paul (www.danapaul.com), augments his South Florida big band, acoustic jazz small group, and “Spinning Wheel” Blood, Sweat & Tears tribute settings with one by his funk/rock vehicle, The WolfePak Band, from 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. on Feb. 13 at O’Shea’s Irish Pub, 531 Clematis St., West Palm Beach (561-833-3865).
If you haven’t seen Jonathan Joseph (www.jonathanjosephdrums.com) play, your first experience may have you thinking you’ve seen one of the world’s greatest jazz/fusion drummers — even if you’d never heard of him before. The Miami native is currently touring and recording with guitar icon Jeff Beck, and has also performed with Joe Zawinul, Pat Metheny, Yellowjackets, David Sanborn, and Joss Stone. A two-time Grammy winner with a new instructional book, Exercises in African-American Funk, Joseph’s self-titled quartet with saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, keyboardist Martin Bejerano and bassist Armando Bola plays at 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton ($7-$15, 561-395-2929).