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Music Review: Gerald Clayton expands musical horizons

Music Review: Gerald Clayton expands musical horizons

Gerald Clayton, "Life Forum" (Concord Jazz)

April 11th, 2013 by CHARLES J. GANS, Associated Press in News

Pianist Gerald Clayton is an emerging jazz star - the son of renowned Los Angeles-based bassist John Clayton and nephew of saxophonist Jeff Clayton - who believes that "tradition and innovation can peacefully co-exist."

Clayton's first two albums as a leader - trio sessions with drummer Justin Brown and bassist Joe Sanders playing a mix of standards and originals - both received Grammy nominations. On "Life Forum," the classically trained pianist emphasizes his own compositions, expanding his musical horizons by augmenting his trio with three horn players and two vocalists.

The result is a stylistically diverse collection conveying a range of moods. Gretchen Parlato's ethereal, wordless vocals help carry the melody on "Deep Dry Ocean," while Sachal Vasandani's airy vocals are featured on "Dusk Baby," with Dayna Stephens adding a smooth tenor sax solo. Ambrose Akinmusire's angular trumpet solo adds punch to "Some Always" with its shifting dynamics.

The closer "When an Angel Sheds a Feather" - which begins as a relaxed ballad with Clayton sensitively accompanying the vocalists before concluding with a swinging drumless instrumental - reflects the musician's maturity as an innovative composer rooted in the jazz tradition.