Keith Ailer first studied Jazz under the tutelage of Calvin Jones, professor of Jazz Studies at the University of the District of Columbia. He also studied voice from Charlotte Holloman, an instructor at Howard University School of Music. Since he began these studies, Keith has performed at some eminent concert halls and jazz clubs, such as The Kennedy Center and Blues Alley in Washington DC and ShowTime at The Apollo, The Iridium, and Sweet Basil's in New York City. He was also selected as one of the vocal Semi-finalists in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1998.
Keith's debut release "Spaces & Places" #20302-2 features Gary Bartz (saxophone), Michael Bowie (bass) Marc Cary (piano), YC Laws (flute), Deirdre Pascal (cello), Harold Summey Jr. (drums), and Vinnie Valentino (guitar).
Jazz audiences will surely hear more about this talented vocalist and writer in the future.
"Midnight Sun" and "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons" emit a spark, a fair amount of drama, and some romance to surround Ailer's solid delivery. His supporting ensemble enhances the affair with a welcome and spontaneous approach. Later, Gary Bartz and Marc Cary turn a corny arrangement of Lionel Bart's "Where Is Love" into a swinger through their solo opinions. Of Ailer's five original tunes, three stand off to one side as smooth R&B songs for our generation; they're touched-up by the lush flute work of Y.C. Laws. The other two, "Spaces & Places" and "Blues For Khaliq," are performed as instrumental numbers with a mainstream jazz intensity that combines a loose swing with hot saxophone and piano improvisation. Although uneven, Keith Ailer's album represents a tasteful vocal scene with superb accompaniment.
Track Listing: (I Love You) for Sentimental; Reasons; Midnight Sun; Long About Now; Where Is Love; Temptations; Spin Some Time; Spaces & Places; Blues For Khaliq; Goodbye My Love.
Collective Personnel: Keith Ailer- vocals, piano on "Goodbye My Love;" Gary Bartz- alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Michael Bowie- acoustic bass; Marc Cary- piano; Deidre Pascall- cello; Y.C. Laws- flute; Harold Summey- drums; Vinnie Valentino- guitar. --Jim Santella
Making his job easy is the band behind him. Bartz appears on six of the nine selections, adding flowing alto or soprano phrasings and interesting improvisations to fit the mood of the album. He is given numerous solo opportunities where he shows he has not lost his touch. Similarly, Laws' flute playing meshes neatly with the singing. Pianist Cary is on most tunes adding substance to the program with his compatible playing. Guitarist Valentino is a natural with the vocalist, but his appearances are limited. Ailer appears to be a cloud sailing through the sky on a summer day. He sings with emotion while his band supplies the proper Jazz ingredients. There is easygoing appeal to Ailer's music.
"I always had a singing career in mind", he says "but I was never in an atmosphere that fostered professional activity." At UDC, however, Ailer met with Calvin Jones, chairman of the jazz department, who helped him develop his technique and sharpen his jazz chops in a course on jazz studies. Since then Ailer's course was set.
"I've found that my voice comes through singing the standards", he says. "Standards let you know where jazz has been and they teach the basics, especially about jazz. All the great jazz singers did their thing on standards, and they became the teachers of us all."
When it comes to writing, Ailer's own tunes are based largely on personal experiences and his recording contains several original tunes, including two instrumentals. The recording features Gary Bartz on sax, Michael Bowie on bass, Marc Cary on piano, Y.C. Laws on flute, Deirdre Pascal on cello, drummer Harold Summey, and regular associate Vinnie Valentino on guitar.
Ailer describes his style of singing as classical, always being serious about the music he interprets and respecting the composer's point of view. "I couldn't sing anything if I didn't have some kind of understanding and appreciation for what the composer was doing".
Ailer knows first hand that it takes time to study jazz, and he feels the dearth of new male jazz singers comes from a lack of exposure. "But I love jazz and I don't mind being one of a few", he says. And when he's not gigging, he's an associate producer for BET On Jazz, exposing the culture to the music he loves, and allowing him to enjoy the best of both worlds.