The Paul Keller Orchestra
tradition that goes on to this day. Twenty-three years later bassists Paul Keller and Ron Brooks decided to emulate the concept of a big band playing on an otherwise gig-less night at the Bird of Paradise club in Ann Arbor. It quickly became Keller's band, and has thrived in various venues ever since: at the Bird and then at the two different locales occupied by the Firefly Club. When the Firefly folded, Keller and his crew moved to Ypsilanti's Keystone Martini Bar--but when that place also closed, they returned to their original hometown, and are now firmly settled at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club on Stadium Boulevard.
On opening night the room was filled with regulars. For those of us who remembered its first Monday performance ages ago, it seemed amazing not only that the Paul Keller Orchestra (PKO) has survived, but that so many of the original musicians are still with the band. Indeed, the core that has kept it all together musically is the rhythm duo of Keller on bass and Pete Siers on drums. After twenty-two years together, the band has a cohesion that is difficult to find anywhere outside of the Village Vanguard. The active band book consists of over seven hundred arrangements, some of them classics, others written by PKO members past and present. There are close to a thousand more charts in the leader's home office. Although the main focus is on the modern jazz mainstream, Keller and his cohorts often reach back into the earlier decades of jazz history as well.