keith ailer
vocalist, composer

keith ailer picture Keith Ailer was born in Washington, DC on April 29, 1964. He shares this birth date with another famous Washingtonian, who became a master of musical prose, Mr. Duke Ellington. Keith also has a love for singing and musical composition as his form of artistic expression. His interest in music began at a very early age, but it was not until his early twenties that Keith began to seriously pursue a career in singing & composition. Washington DC has always been a town where live music has been accessible to its young people; as a teenager Keith participated in "Let Em Play", a Washington DC based program designed to actively involve young people in live music performance. Raised by his mother, Audrey J. Ailer, who taught English for DC public schools, Keith was constantly exposed to all forms of art, literature, and music during his developmental years. His family was always taught to be aware of the importance of expressing culture as a means of personal development and refinement.

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.


All That Jazz

Since the male jazz vocalist remains a universal minority, Keith Ailer's arrival on the scene represents a rare occasion. His voice is deep and strong, not unlike the clear delivery of Nat King Cole. For his session, Ailer has enlisted exciting partners who carry the jazz torch and improvise with hot hard-bop solos. Established in 1993, the Jazzateria label lists an eclectic group of artists: some new, some veterans, and all worth the attention.

"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


Continuing in the realm of fine balladeers is Ailer (2). He sings nine beautiful ballads backed by a Jazz combo loaded with fine musicianship. Ailer has a quiet, sensitive vocal tone that oozes with love. He has qualities that could be attributed to Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, and Billy Paul, yet he has taken all these influences and molded them into his own unique voicing. There is a gentleness in the vocalizing of Ailer. He has refreshing lyricism that causes the program to glide by effortlessly. Ailer sings with delicate tenderness and is able to convey the message of love with regularity. The first four tunes are standards, but he sings his own material on the final five cuts. He exhibits an affinity for writing music and lyrics.

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.

Jazz Times

Vocalist Keith Ailer didn't sing in front of an audience until he entered the University of The District of Columbia (UDC) about 12 years ago, but since then he's performed at the Kennedy Center, Blues Alley, and Sweet Basil. He was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1998, and has just released his first recording, "Spaces & Places", on the Jazzateria label. Clearly, the man has not wasted any time.

"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.