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In LA, Kiefer builds modern grooves from deep jazz roots

Kiefer handles the acoustic piano as well as he does synthesizers and computers.
Rob Klassen
Bandcamp Daily
Kiefer handles the acoustic piano as well as he does synthesizers and computers.

Keyboardist, composer, and producer Kiefer has established a reputation in the world of hip-hop. He won a Grammy Award in 2020 for his work on Anderson .Paak's album Ventura. With his new releases this year, Kiefer continues to raise his profile with fans of modern jazz.

Kiefer Shackelford grew up in Southern California in the '90s learning classical and jazz piano. The influence of hip-hop came early on, Kiefer began experimenting with his own computer-generated beats as a young teenager.

After high school, Kiefer studied with jazz legends like guitarist Kenny Burrell and pianist Tamir Hendelman at UCLA. His professional work, though, was mostly focused on hip-hop projects in Los Angeles which led to producing for .Paak starting in 2017.

More recently, Kiefer appeared on English modern jazz duo Blue Lab Beats' debut for Blue Note Records. He co-wrote, produced and played keyboards on last year's "Dat It," playing a beautiful acoustic piano melody that guides a laid-back groove.

It's that improvisational talent that guides Kiefer's own music, from his beat heavy 2017 debut Kickinit Alone to his trilogy of EPs including guest trumpeter Theo Croker.

This year's digital release "Why Not?" accompanied a cover of Bobby Hutcherson's "Montara" and seems to show Kiefer drawing more directly from his jazz background. Further proof comes in newly released collaborations with saxophonist Braxton Cook, a longtime member of trumpeter Christian Scott's band.

Listen for Kiefer's modern jazz trio fused with West Coast hip-hop soul on The New Cool and don't miss his next visit to Seattle. Kiefer opens for the Boston funk jazz crew Lettuce at the Showbox January 21.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.