FILM: “Lee’s 88 Keys” @ the Spectrum 8 Theatres Tonight Only

Review by Greg Haymes

Lee Shaw is Albany’s undisputed Queen of Piano Jazz, and as she says near the start of “Lee’s 88 Keys,” the new film about her life and music, “There are 88 keys on the piano keyboard… I’m 88 years old.”

She’s performed at the Apollo Theatre in NYC and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She’s been inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame (where she was born) and the Capital Area Music Hall of Fame (where she lives now).

Since moving to the Capital Region back in 1971, Lee Shaw has been one of the most enthusiastic and supportive members of the Nippertown jazz community, as both a musician and an educator.

Directed by Susan Robbins, the film deftly captures Shaw’s spirit. Her dedication. Her dogged determination not to let illness slow her down. Her undying passion for jazz. Her love of dogs. Her prowess as performer. Her imagination and skill as a pianist. And so much more…

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Naturally, “Lee’s 88 Keys” features a wealth of performance footage and vintage photographs as it traces Shaw’s musical and personal journey. There are plenty of interviews with Shaw, too, of course, but there are also talking-head reminiscences with many of Shaw’s friends, neighbors, fans, bandmates (bassist Rich Syracuse and drummer Jeff Siegel) and former piano students, including John Medeski (of Medeski Martin & Wood) and Tedd Firth.

It’s no surprise that Shaw gets the last word in the film. And with her typically generous spirit, Shaw deflects the spotlight and wraps up the film by heaping praise upon her bandmates. That’s so Lee Shaw…

The documentary film had its world premiere in April at Proctors in Schenectady, but you’ll have another opportunity to see it on the big screen when “Lee’s 88 Keys” is shown at the Spectrum 8 Theatres in Albany at 7pm tonight (Wednesday, June 3) for one screening only. Director Susan Robbins will also be on hand for a post-screening Q&A session.

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