**** Geoff Keezer, “Here and Now,” Blue Note. The 20-year-old pianist, who at 18 joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, is developing as composer and interpreter. He names John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter as inspirations for his originals and pays homage to Ellington with Duke’s “Agra” from the “Far East Suite.” Keezer’s group includes the promising Steve Nelson on vibes and Keezer’s former Blakey partner Donald Harrison on alto sax.
*** Elmo Hope, “Trio and Quintet,” Blue Note. Hope (1923-67) was a promising pianist cut from the Bud Powell mold whose life was destroyed by heroin. The 10 trio cuts represent him well--he wrote most of that material. The quintet dates--one in 1954 with Frank Foster in some boldly assertive tenor, the other in 1957 with a West Coast group including Harold Land--are lucid, punching exercises in the best hard-bop tradition of the day.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent). A rating of five stars is reserved for classic reissues or retrospectives.