Joe Keyes will be the first to tell you that he is a late bloomer. A lifelong musician who got his start DJing in middle school, it wasn’t until 2009, as he was approaching his 50s, that Keyes found his band, and his true sound. The Freehold, NJ, native formed Joe Keyes & The Late Bloomer Band around an ensemble of young musicians equally adept at playing the funk, R&B, soul, rock and jazz flavors Keyes throws at them.
Equal parts front man, poet, and conductor, Keyes draws on the influences of Miles Davis, Gil Scott-Heron, Sun Ra, and early Parliament-Funkadelic when bands were led by strong, almost otherworldly leaders. As the nine-piece band grooves through the musical spectrum, Keyes cues the horns and the solos and directs the dynamics from epic crescendos to soft melodies. Add to the mix his deep, commanding vocals, which are punctuated by tales of love, family, and addiction from Keyes’ six decades on earth.
The band’s vibe and sound – honed over years of theatrical, improvisational shows with stretched out solos and vocal monologues – pays homage to the sounds of the ’60s through the ’80s with Keyes’ own mash-ups. Alongside the band’s original music are concoctions that could draw the horn lines from one song, guitar parts from another, and the bass and drums from yet another song. It’s a way for Keyes to honor his musical heroes while putting his original spin on their classic sounds.
This mix of fresh, funky originals and mash-ups shines bright on the forthcoming debut album from Joe Keyes & The Late Bloomer Band, “Tales from the Griot of Westminster.” The nine-track album gets its name from the rural town on the outskirts of Baltimore that Keyes calls home and from which most of his members hail. Outside of band practice, Keyes can often be found holding court around the campfire, mentoring young musicians, and telling them stories from his whirlwind life.
Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band is…
Joe Keyes “The Late Bloomer” – Vocal Vibeologist