Del Mar native returns for debut jazz performance


By Claire Harlin

The youngest of five, pianist Paul Keeling grew up listening to his father and siblings playing classical chamber music in their Del Mar living room. His brothers played the violin, cello and guitar, and his sister played both the piano and viola. Father Charles David Keeling — an accomplished pianist and one of the first scientists to alert the world to humans’ impact on global warming — led the family to its musical legacy.

Paul was the only Keeling child to pursue a professional career in music, and he made a name for himself in San Diego in the 1990s as member of acclaimed trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos’s quartet. Keeling is now living in Vancouver, Canada, but the Torrey Pines High School alumnus will be giving a rare performance in San Diego on Jan. 14 at 98 Bottles, located at 2400 Kettner Blvd., Suite #110.

“I’m stepping out more as a leader,” said Keeling, who will be debuting his new album, “The Farthest Reach.” “It’s really nice to come back to San Diego and play my own material.”

Keeling was inspired not only by his musically intellectual family, but by the notable musicians from Del Mar who he grew up listening to locally. A few of his idols include local jazz guitarist Peter Sprague, saxist Steve Feierabend, pianist Rob Schneiderman and vocalist Kevyn Lettau — all of whom went on to have successful careers in music.

“They performed in Del Mar during ‘Del Mar Days’ and other outdoor free events, including Earth Song Bookstore on 101 (now closed),” Keeling said. “They had gigs at places like the Fire Pit (now the Poseidon) but I was too young to get in.”

Keeling said another important reason he got interested in jazz was hearing the Pat Metheny Group live when he was 12 years old, and he is most influenced by the likes of jazz pianists Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock.

“I would describe the kind of jazz I play as rhythmically driving, harmonically rich, and above all, melodic,” he said. “It is not hard to get or relate to. A lot of it has an open, landscapey feel. People who are not necessarily into jazz can get into it, but jazz purists will also not be disappointed.”

Being a pianist is not the only hat Keeling wears. He’s an avid surfer — one of the first things he did during his brief return to Del Mar — and he has a master’s degree in environmental philosophy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He loves philosophical writing and has been published in various journals and magazines on environmental issues.

For more information on Keeling and his music, visit For more information on the venue where he will be playing, visit