Reviews of PKO


Here's a very nice 4 and 1/2 star review for All Music Guide by Ken Dryden (August 16, 2011) of SOMETHIN' SPECIAL: A CD by San Francisco pianist Larry Vuckovich featuring string bassist Paul Keller, drummer Chuck McPherson, and saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Noel Jewks.

A veteran pianist deserving of wider recognition, Larry Vuckovich has spent several decades on the American jazz scene since leaving his native Yugoslavia for the U.S. in the early '50s. For the most part the songs on these 2011 sessions focus on bop and hard bop from the late '50s and early '60s, ranging from solo piano to trio, quartet, and quintet, featuring tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton on five selections. Vuckovich's working group includes tenor saxophonist Noel Jewkes, bassist Paul Keller, and drummer Chuck McPherson. Vuckovich's solo treatment of Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" mixes glistening lines with jaunty bop, while his approach to Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" is lush with a few Tatum-inspired runs added for fun. Hamilton shares the spotlight with Jewkes for three songs. The robust twin tenor interpretation of Sonny Clark's "Somethin' Special" is a breezy take of an infectious blues with potent solos all around, with Hamilton's hard blowing contrasting with Jewkes' lighter but equally swinging approach, in which they both playfully exchange a tag from Bizet's Carmen. Keller steals the show with his intricate opening solo to "Comin' Home Baby," though the one-two punch of the tenor team energizes this favorite, with the leader's solo blending soul-jazz with a Brazilian air. The tenor men also devour Dexter Gordon's "Cheese Cake" with a delicious performance. Hamilton plays the sole tenor in a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's melancholy "How Insensitive" and the touching ballad "What Will I Tell My Heart," while Jewkes is featured in Horace Silver's infrequently recorded "Enchantment." Vuckovich contributed two fine originals as well. "Loving Linda" showcases Jewkes' impressive chops on soprano sax, a shimmering swinger with a Brazilian touch. The rhythm section tackles the pianist's driving "Zeljko's Blues" with gusto, featuring each of them individually in what should be a natural set-closer for Vuckovich. This CD easily lives up to its title with outstanding performances throughout the sessions. 

Michigan icons -- from the Mackinac Bridge to Ernie Harwell -- inspired Paul Keller's 'Michigan Jazz Suite'-interview by Mark Stryker of 7/14/11

Paul Keller

Now in its 17th year, the Michigan Jazz Festival shines a well-deserved spotlight on the everyday heroes of Detroit's jazz scene. Sunday's festival will feature about 150 musicians -- everything from solo pianists to big bands -- performing on six stages. One of the highlights will be the "Michigan Jazz Suite" by bassist and composer Paul Keller. The work will be performed by his septet.

The suite, a set of 15 pieces, was inspired by Michigan icons ranging from the Mackinac Bridge ("Big Mac") to the late Ernie Harwell. The latter is represented by "The House by the Side of the Road," named for Harwell's signature call when a batter took a third strike -- "He stood there like a house by the side of the road and watched that one go by." At 49, Keller is an indefatigable force, traveling the world with a slew of big names but also holding down the fort as something of the house bassist for the state of Michigan.
Read the full interview


Praise for PKO...

"New York may have the Village Vanguard Orchestra, but Ann Arbor has the Paul Keller Orchestra."

Mitch Genova, Detroit Jazz Monthly

"All of the good remaining big bands are not in New York. Case in point, the Paul Keller Orchestra, which does its wailing in Ann Arbor, Michigan and ranges from early classics by Jelly Roll and Duke to its own well-crafted originals. Talented soloists abound, and it also doesn't hurt to have an irrepressible rhythm section, commandeered by leader Paul Keller."

Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe and Downbeat

"Every section of the band is brimming with enthusiasm."

Lars Bjorn, Southeast Michigan Jazz Association Update

"There's a joy and dedication in the faces of the musicians, and Keller is the epitome of this spirit."

Arwulf Arwulf, Agenda

"The Paul Keller Orchestra is as versatile as it is spirited--it stretches out on the modern creations, returns to the Roaring Twenties with charts from Duke Ellington and McKinney's Cotton Pickers, and digs up rare standards for vocalist Susan Chastain to croon on."

Jim Dulzo, Ann Arbor Observer

We Like To Riff Review by John Shea

Paul Keller has done it again! This is another marvelous CD from PKO Records. It will bring back fond memories of the Nat Cole Trio to everyone who loved them(& who didn't?). It also reminds us that Diana Krall's first CD was dedicated to Nat Cole, and was Paul and Diana's spring board to International touring culminating in an appearance on the David Letterman show. A good time was had by all, and we got to enjoy it, vicariously, right here in West Michigan, through Paul's e-mails from around the globe!

The immediate stand out feature of this record is the huge talent of pianist Steve Richko. He is a natural swinger who's also a born accompianist. His enormous technical facility is always applied with taste, grace, and clarity. The double octave passages are especially exciting to hear. Another notable talent Steve has is the ease with which he executes whatever challenging arrangement Paul throws at him.

The next stand out feature of this CD is Paul's fertile imagination, as an arranger. there seems to be no end to it! Interludes, transitions, key changes, interesting harmonies, and references to other songs abound. I could say about Paul what he once said about Duke Ellington. He's just a man. Just a man whose resource of ideas is like a 50 foot deep well! My personal favorites are "The Man on the Little White Keys" , and "Little Girl".

"Sweet Lorraine" introduces the excellent guest vocalist Eddie Erickson, who plays the Nat Cole role. He's got great pipes, with a mellow baritone, reminiscent of another great singer, our mentor, Bennie Carew. "Calypso Blues" provided a special treat for yours truly, because Paul and I performed it with Bennie at Sigees Lounge in the Harley Hotel.

"I Know that you Know" is a tour-de-force arrangement for this cozy, cohesive unit. Steve and Paul play with typical wild abandonment, and their young guitar man, Ralph Tope, fits in perfectly with these 2 swinging gents. Ralph has a warm & pretty tone on the guitar and plays lots of tasty licks. He's a real up and comer.

My Rating:5 stars. Paul Keller Trio's "We Like To Riff" can be easily purchased at


The parents, administrators and teachers of Country and Lakeland Elementary Schools in Pinckney, Michigan value the arts. Their support enables my music students to experience several excellent performances at school each year. One of our favorite musical events is the annual jazz concert by the Paul Keller Ensemble. Zak, a third grader, expressed it well for us when he wrote to Paul: I loved your music! I couldnt wait to see you play! You were awesome.

The PKE concerts are always well planned, highly instructional and presented beautifully. Paul ensures that the kids experience jazz from all style periods and he pays homage to the great figures in jazz history. He inspires the youngsters by featuring a piece that he has composed himself, and tells the story behind his music. The kids really enjoy hearing his work.

PKE members respect this young audience and give their absolute best. Their improvisations never fail to delight and amaze the students with their inventiveness. I love it that the guys are clearly having fun while demonstrating so much musical intensity. The kids can tell that the musicians strong technical skills have required years of effort and dedication but that its definitely worth it! Paul also has each musician demonstrate their instruments register and the various timbres and effects that can be used in performance. They kindly answer questions about themselves and music at the end of every concert.

Prior to the concert, I integrate jazz with the elementary music curriculum. The students learn music concepts and improve their skills by listening, moving, singing and playing classroom instruments with jazz as our theme. Paul is generous with the limelight and wants to involve the students as musicians, so we play and sing a couple of numbers with the band. Over the years Ive had to come up with strategies to teach things that are generally beyond the scope of the elementary music curriculum -- like syncopated rhythms, compound time signatures, various scales and chord progressions. Working with the PKE in this way has really encouraged my growth as a teacher. This year were planning to have the band play and improvise on themes composed by the students in music class! Ill be sure to invite the composers parents for that event.

Pauls impressive talent as a bandleader, arranger, composer, musician and educator are conveyed through his warmth and genuine affection for kids. He knows how to communicate with them and he is definitely developing a new audience for jazz. When he walks his bass out into the crowd for the kindergartners to touch, I get nervous because Im afraid there will be a stampede!

Without a doubt, Pauls the best friend a jazz-nut music teacher could ever have, and hes got quite a fan club at Country and Lakeland Elementary schools. Ill close with the comments of my young friend, Carson: Your band is great. I enjoyed your music. I am going to put jazz on my i-pod. And if I can, I will get your cd. I might even play jazz like you! You do that, Carson and you will surely make both your music teacher and Paul Keller very happy.

-Janet Pecot, Music Teacher for Lakeland and Country Elementary Schools in Pinckney, MI


1. PAUL KELLER ENSEMBLE More Christmas Songs For Jazz Lovers (PKO) {14}
2. BELA FLECK & THE FLECKTONES Jingle All The Way (Rounder) {11}
3. TUCK & PATTI I Remember You (T&P) {8}
4. MCCOY TYNER Guitars (Half Note) {8}
5. ANAT COHEN "Notes From The Village" (Anzic) {7}
6. DAVID SANBORN Here & Gone (Decca) {7}
7. WILL BERNARD Blue Plate Special (Palmetto) {6}
8. PAUL KELLER The Michigan Jazz Suite (PKO) {5}
9. COREY CHRISTIANSEN Roll With It (Origin) {4}
10. JAVON JACKSON Once Upon A Melody (Palmetto) {4}
12. JACQUI NAYLOR You Dont Know Jacq (Ruby Star) {4}
13. AARON PARKS Invisible Cinema (Blue Note) {4}
14. FRANK CATALANO Bang! (Savoy Jazz) {3}
15. ABLAYE CISSOKO + VOLKER GOETZE Sira (ObliqSound) {3}
16. GENERATIONS Tough Guys (ICA) {3}
17. LAFAYETTE GILCHRIST Soul Progressin (Hyena) {3}
18. CHARLIE HUNTER Baboon Strength (Spire Artist Media) {3}
19. MIKE LEDONNE Five Live (Savant) {3}
20. MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD Radiolarians I (Indirecto) {3}
21. ORGANISSIMO Groovadelphia (Big O) {3}
22. KENNY BARRON The Traveler (Verve) {2}
24. ANDREA BRACHFELD Into The World: A Musical Offering (Shaneye Records) {2}
25. STEVE DAVIS Outlook (Positone) {2}
26. JOEY DEFRANCESCO Joey D! (High Note) {2}
27. GILFEMA Gilfema +2 (Obliq Sound) {2}
28. DON HALES Unified String Theory (Chicken Coop) {2}
29. THE HERE & NOW Break Of Day (OA2) {2}
30. JAY HOGGARD Soular Power (JHVM) {2}
31. SHEILA JORDAN Winter Sunshine (Justin Time) {2}
32. KATE MCGARRY If Less Is More&Nothing Is Everything (Palmetto) {2}
34. ARTURO OFARRILL AND CLAUDIA ACUNA In These Shoes (Zoho Music) {2}
35. DANILO PEREZ AND CLAUS OGERMAN Across The Crystal Sea (Decca) {2}
36. HOUSTON PERSON The Art And Soul Of Houston Person (High Note) {2}
37. PUERTORICAN FOLKLORIC JAZZ Barriles De Bomba ( {2}
38. SONNY ROLLINS Road Shows, Volume 1 (Doxy) {2}

A blog by Linda Yohn

Music is about many relationships&one note to another, a section of a piece contrasting another and the relationship of time. If the songs are well composed, a final aspect of relationships takes the music to a higher level. That relationship is that of the players in the band and their relationship to the audience.

The 18th birthday celebration for The Paul Keller Orchestra, Friday January 26th illustrated all the relationship aspects of music. Paul Keller made every one in the room feel valued and part of the process. He recognized the contributions of every band member from original members Paul Klinger and Paul Finkbeiner to the newest members. He remembered former members such as Chris Kase who contributed arrangements that continue to be fresh and challenging. Paul did not forget the contributions of the loyal listeners whose applause buoys the band, because the orchestra members surely dont do the every Monday night for just the money. They do it for the love of the music and for those who love it as well.

Fridays love fest was more than just warm fuzzies. The evening was jam-packed with big band arrangements that spanned the history of jazz: from The Milenberg Joys to an expansive and uplifting modern Kenny Wheeler composition. From the (literally!) hundreds of songs in the book, Paul Keller crafted an evening of contrasts in music that showcased each member of the band in a solo appropriate to his gifts as an improviser.

We in Southeastern Michigan are the recipients of Paul Kellers understanding of all the relationships in jazz: the eras, the songs, the pacing, the improvisers and the audience. May Paul and his pals enjoy many more birthdays.

The Bird of Paradise Orchestra

"This modern big band is high-spirited and fun and draws in the audience with their energy. Their creative arrangements and excellent soloists give this band a stamp of originality. The PKO's charming vocalist, Susan Chastain, adds a pleasant note to their presentation. A jazz big band should swing hard, the soloists should excite; this happens with the Paul Keller Orchestra!"

Bob MacKercher, West Michigan Jazz Society

"The PKO comes out swinging at the bell. The band recalls the golden years of the power-house units of Ellington, Basie and Lunceford...Keller is the founder/leader of an enthusiastic, hard-swinging group of first-class musicians."

Hazen Schumacher, Jazz Revisited

"If a jazz lover's idea of heaven on earth is a swinging big band with the chutzpah to tear into intricate early jazz charts and yet skillfully execute cutting-edge original works, then the Bird of Paradise Orchestra is indeed "paradise" for the jazz enthusiast."

Linda Yohn, WEMU Music Director





1. STEVE RICHKO / PAUL KELLER / PETE SIERS To Oscar, With Love: A Tribute To Oscar Peterson {PKO} (15)
2. CARL ALLEN / RODNEY WHITAKER Get Ready {Mack Avenue} (12)
3. CHICK COREA / BELA FLECK The Enchantment {Concord} (8)
4. PANCHO SANCHEZ Raise Your Hand {Concord Picante} (8)
5. DEVIN PHILLIPS Wade In The Water {Devin Phillips Music} (7)
6. ARTURO SANDOVAL Rumba Palace {Telarc} (7)
7. WILL BERNARD Party Hats {Palmetto} (6)
8. KURT ELLING Nightmoves {Concord} (6)
9. DARRELL GRANT Truth & Reconciliation {Origin} (6)
10. LOS GATOS Insight {PKO} (6)
11. MICHAEL BRECKER Pilgrimage {Heads Up} (5)
12. ONAJE ALLAN GUMBS Sack Full Of Dreams {18th & Vine} (5)
13. ROBERT IRVING III New Momentum {Sonic Portraits} (5)
14. GEORGE KONTRAFOURIS Little Daddys Blues {Chicken Coup} (5)
15. KATE MCGARRY The Target {Palmetto} (5)
16. JIMMY PONDER Somebodys Child {High Note} (5)
17. JEFF TAIN WATTS - EBONIX Folks Songs {Dark Key} (5)
18. THE BAD PLUS Prog {Heads Up} (4)
19. ALVIN BATISTE Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste {Marsalis Music/Rounder} (4)
20. SEAMUS BLAKE Way Out Willie {Criss Cross} (4)
21. BRANDI DISTERHEFT Debut {Superfran} (4)
22. ROB ESPINO Y Sus Amigos De Nueva Orleans {Bucket Girl} (4)
23. ROBERT GLASPER In My Element {Blue Note}(4)
24. THE GREYBOY ALL STARS What Happened To Television? {Sci-Fidelity} (4)
25. LAUREN HOOKER Right Where I Belong {Musical Legends} (4)
26. LORCHESTRE DES PAS PERDUE Projet 9 {Cross Current} (4)
27. BILLY MARTIN / JOHN MEDESKI Mago {Amulet} (4)
28. AKIKO TSURUGA Sweet & Funky {18th & Vine} (4)
29. ABRAM WILSON Ride!: The Ferris Wheel To The Modern Day Delta {Dune} (4)
30. ARUSHA Look Up {Arusha} (3)
31. MICHEL CAMILO Spirit Of The Moment {Telarc} (3)
32. THE CLAUDIA QUINTET For {Cuneiform} (3)
33. ANAT COHEN Poetica {Anzic} (3)
34. WILSON CHEMBO CORNIEL For The Rest Of Your Life {Chemboro} (3)
35. THE JACK CORTNER NEW YORK BIG BAND Fast Track {Jazzed Media} (3)
36. DEPARTMENT OF GOOD & EVIL w/RACHEL Z The Department Of Good & Evil Featuring Rachel Z {Savoy Jazz} (3)
37. DOUBLE IMAGE-DAVID FRIEDMAN / DAVE SAMUELS Moment To Moment - Live In Concert {Double Image/Sunnyside} (3)
38. DAVID HAZELTINE Blues Quarters, Volume II {Criss Cross} (3)
39. THE FRED HERSCH TRIO Night & The Music {Palmetto} (3)
40. JOE KROWN Old Friends {} (3)
41. JOE LOVANO / HANK JONES Kids: Live At Dizzys Club Coca- Cola {Blue Note} (3)
42. THE MACPODZ Genius Food For Super Heroes
{} (3)
43. HAROLDO MAURO JR. Bossa Na Pressao {Delira Musica} (3)
44. MELVIN RHYNE Front & Center {Criss Cross} (3)
45. THE SPANISH HARLEM ORCHESTRA United We Swing {Six Degrees} (3)
46. ESBJORN SVENSSON-E.S.T. Tuesday Wonderland {Emarcy} (3)
47. ANTIBALAS Security {Anti-} (2)
48. RONI BEN-HUR Keepin It Open {Motema} (2)
49. BOBBY BROOM Song & Dance {Origin} (2)
50. THE BILL CHARLAP TRIO Live At The Village Vanguard {Blue Note} (2)
51. AVISHAI COHEN As Is&Live At The Blue Note {Raz Daz/Half Note} (2)
52. HARRY CONNICK JR. Oh, My NOLA {Columbia} (2)
53. DEBORAH COX Destination Moon {Decca} (2)
54. ANAT FORT A Long Story {ECM} (2)
55. JOEL FRAHM We Used To Dance {Anzic} (2)
56. SARA GAZAREK Return To You {Native Language} (2)
57. JEFF HACKWORTH How Little We Know {Big Bridge Music} (2)


Linda Yohn
WEMU Music Director

the band