Kevin Keith: Smooth Jazz Chapman Stick Funk Master

The brief clip that started it all.

Thanks to the power of the internet, I know exactly when it all began. It was Friday, March 22, 2013 around 7:00pm. I had been watching a string of random Chapman Stick videos on YouTube when I encountered a brief clip titled simply: "Kevin Keith - Chapman Stick Video."

Thus began my love affair with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Keith.

It was perfect! Spotlight on a dude standing in complete, utter darkness holding a 10-string stick, wearing a Skywalker Sound ball cap and a Nike workout shirt while eliciting bright, bouncy melodies. And then, without warning, a percussive count-off opens the floodgates on some of the funkiest, most badass Chapman Stick grooves to have ever graced these ears. I'm talkin' good mood boogie jams! And he is into it, man! Eyes closed, head bobbin' 'n' swivelin'... that's the groove zone, baby!

I must have watched the video at least 10 times in a row before running upstairs to excitedly email the link to anyone I thought might appreciate the performance even half as much as I did. It's seriously one of the greatest things I've ever heard, and I could listen to this clip on a nonstop loop for the rest of my days.

Next step? YouTube search: Kevin Keith Chapman Stick.

From lush melodies to bumpin' funk to pop riffs.

In this clip, Kevin delivers a few quick stick runs utilizing a Roland guitar synth. The laidback, fluid intro is incredibly reminiscent of some of Sean Malone from Cynic's work on his solo album, Cortlandt, or with Gordian Knot. (Sean Malone is the only reason I even know what a Chapman Stick is, after all.) Closing out with a passage from Shawn Colvin's "Sunny Came Home," it may not encourage me to stand up and shout like the first video, but its diversity is mesmerizing nonetheless.

And it doesn't end there.

"Yeeeaaahhh..." is right, god damnit!

Apparently, Kevin Keith is a monster bassist, too! Here he is unloading about a minute of completely hammering, slap-happy funk. The chuckled "Yeeeaaahhh..." at the end is just perfect, too. I love the palpable enthusiasm!

Though it would never happen in a million years, I can't help but imagine the wonderful damage this guy could do in some sort of Primus or Infectious Grooves-like scenario.

Live performance and interview footage from Street Music Los Angeles.

Keith works predominantly in television (check out this detailed bio)—composing for Warner Bros. Television and Universal Music Group, as well as mixing live TV performances—but has thankfully released at least some small amount of his own material over the years. His debut, The EP, dropped over a decade ago in 2000 (listen on Spotify) and consists of about a half-hour of largely soft, melodic smooth jazz—even introducing vocals for "I'm Your Man," a surprisingly killer R&B ballad that proves he's sitting on some impressive songwriting chops (not to mention his singing abilities).

Introducing... The Electronic Jazz Ensemble.

In 2008, Kevin hooked up with the added flare of David "Fingers" Haynes—who (quite incredibly) plays a drum machine with his fingers—and an interesting group of collaborators (bringing in sax, keyboards, and piano) to form The Electronic Jazz Ensemble. The group's 2008 release, This is EJE, takes the relaxing jazz of The EP in a slightly funkier direction—again touching on a few fantastic R&B-tinged ballads during tracks such as the two-part "I Still Belong to You."

A live performance of Kevin Keith's 2010 single, "Turn it All Around (I Believe)."

Keith's latest single, "Turn it All Around (I Believe)," was released back in 2010 to promote a forthcoming full-length titled Common Man. Originally slated for release in 2011, as far as I can tell the album has yet to see the light, unfortunately. That being said, the single is another superbly executed, heartfelt ballad illustrative of high-level songwriting skills. Killer vocal harmonies during the chorus, too!

Excerpts from "Keep On Keepin' On," circa 2013.

Kevin's most recent video, which is still over a year old, contains a snippet of a new piece called "Keep On Keepin' On." Cranking out more of the thumpin' funk with light dashes of melody that sucked me in from the start, Keith's "in the zone" head bobbing and intense facial expressions make a return here, and I'm all over it. That's how music should be played: you should be feelin' it!

Kevin in the studio.

It's probably no surprise that most of this material is not the style of music that I typically listen to. I know almost nothing about these genres: my collection contains pretty much zero jazz, and funk's appearances are generally limited to a small dose of Isaac Hayes or '80s-era hits/soundtrack collections featuring acts like Whodini, The Gap Band, etc. But I'm always intrigued by melodic stick work, and it's a testament to the quality and range of Kevin Keith's talents that I've purchased all of his music that I've been able to find. I even have mp3 files from some of his YouTube videos!

The downside is that all of the aforementioned material adds up to just slightly more than an hour's worth of listening pleasure, so the man needs to be working on more of his original tunes, for sure. I mean, I could easily listen to an album's worth of his two-minute doodle jams alone!

To my dismay, Kevin hasn't uploaded a video, tweeted, or done anything on Facebook since 2013. His blog—where oddly enough he most recently discussed that working on his own music was becoming more of a priority—hasn't been touched since way back in January of 2011. And his website? Nothing but "Coming Soon" pages.


From what I can tell, there's not much more out there, though there are a few more YouTube videos worth perusing if you're a curious observer (or a burgeoning fanboy like myself):

Not only do I sincerely hope that the Common Man album materializes one day, but I would love to see this incredibly talented and underrated musician continue writing and recording his own work in any form—be it solo or collaborating with other artists in a band format. Hell, I'd even settle for the occasional minute-long YouTube clip if that's all I can get—it's better than nothing!

It took less than two minutes to convert me into a lifelong Kevin Keith fan, and there's something really special and awesome about that...

Kevin Keith: you are a true badass!


  1. Thanks for introducing me to this stuff! Checking out his EP on Spotify and it’s totally up my alley.

    6.24.2014 | By Carlos Ramirez

  2. Excellent! I wish the other material was on there, too, but at least it’s on iTunes, etc. It’s all quite good. Glad you dig it, too!

    6.24.2014 | By Andrew Aversionline

  3. Neat stuff. If you like Kevin Keith, I think you’d be a fan of these guys too. :)…

    6.25.2014 | By Grawmps

  4. Yeah, I can dig it, heh…

    6.25.2014 | By Andrew Aversionline

  5. Good stuff!  Maybe I can add him to the mix.  I am a DJ who specializes in long beat mixed smooth jazz!

    2.16.2015 | By