New Release: Jim Keller – Spark & Flame
Jim Keller – Spark & Flame
Label: Continental Record Services
Release Date: November 11, 2022
Jim Keller is an American musician, producer, manager, publisher and composer whose work in the music business spans more than 40 years. He was the co-founder, lead guitarist and primary songwriter for the rock band Tommy Tutone, and wrote that band’s most famous single, “867-5309/Jenny”.
Since 1992, Keller has worked with Philip Glass, first running Glass’s publishing company and eventually managing his career as director of Dunvagen Music.
ln L999, Keller founded St. Rose Music as a publishing and management company for friends and associates. The firm’s roster grew to include Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Ravi Shankar and Nico Muhly.
Keller’s music career began in the late ’70s, when he and singer Tommy Heath began playing around the San Francisco area with backing musicians under the name Tommy Tutone. By 1979, Tommy and Jim had a deal with Columbia Records. The band’s debut album, Tommy Tutone, recorded with bassist Terry Nails and drummer Micky Shine, yielded three singles, including “Angel Say No,” which peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. As the band set to work on their second LP, Keller approached Heath with a song he’d co-written with former Clover frontman Alex Call, about a girl’s number on thebathroom wall. ln 1982, “867-5309f/Jenny” was number four on the Billboard charts for 27 weeks. Decades later, it remains one of the great power-pop classics of the era.
After the band’s third album, National Emotion, Keller and Heath went their separate ways. For several years, Keller played in bands, wrote jingles and helped friends and colleagues with music publishing. He stopped performing and recording in 1994, not long after he began – improbably – to work for Glass.
As Glass recalled in a New Yorker profile of Keller, “He had none of the conventional qualifications that I thought someone should have. I asked, ‘What do you know about the music business?,’ and he said, ‘Only what I learned on the street,’ but that’s how I learned, so it didn’t sound bad to me.” Keller made Glass an offer: lf he could double his income in the first year, the composer would double Keller’s salary. “l thought about that for about thirty seconds,” Glass recalled, “and I realized, That could be great for me, and he did it.”
ln 2005, after a ten-year hiatus, Keller began writing songs and performing again. He has since recorded four well-received solo albums: Sunshine in My Pocket (2009), Soul Candy (201111, Heaven Con Wait (201,4) and By No Meons (202L). Keller has recorded with a who’s-who of rock music, including producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Paul McCartney), guitarists David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and Marc Ribot (Elvis Costello), and bassist Byron Isaacs (The Lumineers), who is also his songwriting partner. “lt’s Keller’s songwriting, wry and understated, yet always gently stirring, that holds center court,” says American Songwriter.
Keller’s new record, ‘Spark & Flame’ (2022), is a departure from the strippeddown intimacy of his recent solo work. The basic tracks were recorded live in a studio in New York. Then Adam Minkoff, a composer and multi-instrumentalist, built up the songs with Keller, layering in horns, keyboards, background vocals and guitar overdubs. The songs swell up and pull back and shímmer like waves beneath Keller’s gravelly baritone.
Keller’s regular gigs in New York City – at the fabled Lower East Side club the Lakeside Lounge, and more recently, Rockwood Music Hall – are famous for their “revolving door” policy: if the best players in town aren’t on stage with him, they are in the audience.
He continues to play regularly with the Jim Keller Band.
01. Falling Down
02. Tower Of Love
03. Spark & Flame
05. ‘Til The Water Drinks My Bones
06. Bells Of Notre Dame
07. Learning To Crawl
08. Coming Back
09. Fight The Fight
10. When You’re A Rock
11. Blue Horizon
12. Even Angels Have To Fall