When I think of jazz I never link it with any sexist traditions but after hearing Amanda Ekery’s latest record Keys With No Purpose I began to think of all the jazz musicians I listen to and how very few of them are women. So it made total sense that the national platform of women being discriminated against also fits into those smaller cracks that perhaps much of the supporting public never really thinks about, such as the jazz music world.
But as much as Keys With No Purpose may be a record that deals with these discriminations it is also a very impressive jazz record in its own right that explores many different facets of the jazz world and includes an ensemble cast of eleven musicians who play the mainstay instruments such as alto saxophone, trombone, drums, vibraphone, piano, and cello, and then there’s Ekery’s vocals which are sometimes true words and then they turn into a sort of doo wop scat amalgamation.
The opening track “Skeleton Key” is a very brooding classical jazz take that brings to mind smokey clubs and the musicians onstage lost in their instruments and the sheer rhythms and tempos of the music. It’s great and really lets listeners know that they are in the hands of a highly trained master. Next we get the more playful but still intriguing “Here We Go Again” in which Ekery shows off her vocals on and they are sharp as a tack. They become an instrument in and of themselves and take the song to the next level.
Later on Ekery showcases her vocals as a straightforward jazz singer on “Driftwood” which again is a classic style jazz singer song and one imagines the spotlight filled with smoke focused on Ekery as she sings to the piano playing softly and sweetly in the background. It is quite wonderful and amazing how she can move from this vein to a more playful and experimental one as she does so well on “Attractive Doorways” and the wild ride that is “Keys with no Purpose.”
For any long time jazz fan or for someone just starting out and trying to find their way in the labyrinthine world of jazz music Keys With No Purpose is a great place where both worlds come together. Ekery opens doors for the listener being both a teacher and leader on these songs and she proves to be wonderful at both. Highly recommended.
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