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By Michael Henningsen
By the time he'd reached the ripe old age of 23, Connecticut-bred pianist Kevin Hays had already toured for a year with the Harper Brothers, worked with Joshua Redman and Benny Golson to name but a few, and waxed his first record as a leader, El Matador (Evidence). Considering that most of us spend the period of our "professional" lives between college graduation and the age of 25 spinning in the wind, Hays' comparative beeline toward the pinnacle of post-bop piano craft stands as an even more miraculous feat. And just wait until you hear him play.
Since the recording of his first solo outing, Hays has shared time on stage and in the studio with such modern giants as Sonny Rollins, John Scofield, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson and a long list of other top names in modern jazz. Today, just 15 years after breaking onto the scene as a promising jazz youngster, Hays has amassed a catalog of eight recordings as a leader and dozens of others as a sideman and with groups such as the Sangha Quartet, which includes bassist Larry Grenadier and up-and-coming saxophonist Seamus Blake.
Hays continues to record and tour. His trio of recordings for Blue Note, Seventh Sense, Go Round and Andalucia garnered him widespread and feverish acclaim from jazz critics and fans alike, thereby cementing his place in the major leagues. Incredibly fluid and infused with a deep sense of harmony and rhythm, Hays' work at the keyboard, both on the acoustic and the Fender Rhodes, is quietly fascinating, never overbearing and truly magnificent.
These days, Hays lives in Santa Fe and has been busy supporting his new solo album. So while his previous performance in Albuquerque several years ago featured him in an ensemble that included Chris Potter, his latest visit will be of the solo variety, which, frankly, is going to be nothing less than magical.
Kevin Hays performs Thursday, April 14, at the Outpost Performance Space at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 general, $10 Outpost members. Call 268-0044 for more information.
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