Friday, June 12

Showtime: 8:00 PM

Chautauqua Auditorium

$30.00 - $55.00 ($27.00 - $52.00 Concert Member)

Those who’ve followed Keller Williams’ recording career to date know that he has given each of his albums a single-syllable title: “Freak,” “Buzz,” “Spun,” “Breathe,” “Loop,” “Laugh,” “Home,” “Dance,” “Stage,” “Grass,” “Dream,” “Twelve,” “Rex,” “Live,” “Odd,” “Thief,” “Kids,” “Bass,” “Pick,” “Keys,” and “Funk.” Each title serves not only as a concise summation of the concept guiding the particular project but also as another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Keller Williams. “Grass,” for example, is a bluegrass recording, cut with the husband wife duo the Keels. “Stage” is a live album and “Dream” the end product of a wish list: Keller collaborating with some of his greatest musical heroes. “Thief” is a set of unexpected cover songs. And “Kids” offers up, you guessed it, Williams’ first and possibly only children’s record.

What all of the titles reveal, when taken together, is an artist of great stylistic breadth and infinite imagination, a singer, songwriter and musician, always on a quest for the new. Keller Williams has never followed the prescribed path laid out by the conventional music business, nor has he taken the prescribed meds laid out by his team of conventional doctors. Instead, he has taken the A.D.D. path (Artistic, Determined, Dedication). It’s a path that has served him quite well.

Since he first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, Williams has defined the term “independent artist.” And his recordings tell only half the story. Keller built his reputation initially on his engaging live performances, no two of which are ever alike. For most of his career he has performed solo. His stage shows are rooted around Keller singing his compositions and choice cover songs, while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. With the use of today’s technology, Keller creates samples on the fly in front of the audience, a technique called live phrase sampling or looping. With nothing pre-recorded, the end result often leans toward a hybrid of alternative folk and groovy electronica. A genre Keller jokingly calls “acoustic dance music” or ADM.”

That approach, Williams explains, was derived from “hours of playing solo with just a guitar and a microphone, and then wanting to go down different avenues musically. I couldn’t afford humans and didn’t want to step into the cheesy world of automated sequencers where you hit a button and the whole band starts to play, then you’ve got to solo along or sing on top of it. I wanted something more organic yet with a dance groove that I could create myself.”

Williams’ solo live shows—and his ability to improvise to his determinedly quirky tunes despite the absence of an actual band—quickly became the stuff of legend, and his audience grew exponentially when word spread about this exciting, unpredictable performer. Once he began releasing recordings, starting with 1994’s “Freek,” Williams was embraced by an even wider community of music fans, particularly the jam band crowd. While his live gigs have largely been solo affairs, Williams has nearly always used his albums as a forum for collaborations with fellow musicians. An alliance with The String Cheese Incident on 1999’s “Breathe” marked Williams’ first release on the band’s label SCI Fidelity Records. “Dream,” Keller’s 2007 release, found him in the company of such iconic musicians as the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, banjo master Béla Fleck, bass great Victor Wooten, American musician/ poet Michael Franti and many others.

Williams’ story begins in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C. There he was exposed to a wide variety of music at an early age, starting with country and bluegrass and working his way up through hip-hop and go-go, a brand of funk particular to that part of the country. Once he began playing guitar, Williams’ sphere expanded to what he calls “the post-pseudo-skateboarder punk-rock rebellious type of thing, Black Flag and Sex Pistols and Ramones, Dead Kennedys, things like that. That slid into the more melodic college rock, like the Cure and the Cult, the Smiths, R.E.M.’s first five or six records.” Then came the Grateful Dead, a seminal influence on Williams’ own music.

After relocating to Colorado, further exposure to bluegrass music and progressive acoustic artists such as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones also had a major impression on Williams. As he began to develop his own distinctive compositional and performing style, Williams incorporated all of the lessons he’d learned from the long list of artists who’d found their way into his world, then filtered their music through his own experiences until something wholly unique emerged.

Keller’s thirst for music of all kinds has led him to the world of radio. For the past several years he has hosted Keller’s Cellar, a weekly syndicated program available on both terrestrial stations and online at www.kellerwilliams.net. Williams describes the show as “a self-indulgent, hour-long narrated mix tape of stuff I’m into. It’s rule-less except for what the FCC says we can’t do. I don’t play contemporary country music. I don’t play contemporary Christian music—however, there is possibly some old gospel. I don’t play opera. Everything else is fair game. World music from all around—African music from all the countries, jazz, funk, reggae, techno, chill, lounge, lounge singers, rub-a-dub, dancehall. I pretty much stay away from smooth jazz. It’s definitely a fun outlet for me. I’m trying to do something different.”

Something different. That, we can assume, is how it will always be with Keller Williams.

This show will feature a solo set by Keller Williams and one set with Larry and Jenny Keel.

Ride the FREE HOP 2 Chautauqua shuttle to this show! Click here for more info.