Gerald Clayton – Bond: The Paris Sessions – Decca/Emarcy Records, 74:13 ****½:
(Gerald Clayton – piano; Joe Sanders – bass; Justin Brown – drums)
At twenty-seven, it is difficult to imagine a sustained career. But Gerald Clayton fits this mold, if not many others. Coming from a musical family (his father is bassist/composer John Clayton and his uncle is saxophonist, Jeff Clayton), his musical education began with classical piano instruction as a six year old. After continuing his studies at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School Of Music, he began to perform. Clayton played with Lewis Nash, Al Foster, Terrell Stafford, Clark Terry, Hank Jones, Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Benny Green and Kenny Barron. Additionally, he has collaborated with many of the new jazz entourage. He has garnered two Grammys for his compositional work with the Clayton Brothers. His work is categorized by the ability to unite modern jazz with traditional roots.
The newest release, Bond: The Paris Sessions, is an exciting piano trio project featuring original compositions and covers. The opening track (Frank Loesser’s “If I Were A Bell”) showcases the fresh style of this performer. A rhythmic inventive piano flows gracefully and swings with bassist Joe Sanders and Justin Brown. This is not the conventional arrangement of this Broadway song. Equally melodic is the version of Jerome Kern’s (the first of two) “Nobody Else But Me”. The solo piano captures the breezy optimism. The ability to interpret structured popular music as jazz phrasing is assured and inventive. Another solo piece “Hank” (written by John Clayton) is elegant and nimble. The melodic imagery is delicate and expressive, and is suffused with Clayton’s lyrical aesthetics.
Original compositions (primarily by Clayton) and the trio members is exciting and highlights the chemistry. “Bootleg Bruise” has a bold piano lead with surprising tempo changes and flourishes. Classical influences imbue “Bond: The Release”(part of a three-piece suite). The musicians utilize some unusual touches like background voices. There is a combination of symphonic boldness and clever transitions, aided by the cymbal work of Justin Brown and the bowed bass of Sanders. “Bond: Fresh Squeeze” is gentle but pulsating. Clayton is versatile and can adapt style and nuance with ease. Brown’s lively original, begins with an energetic drum solo and gives the drummer a showcase for his nimble percussive touch. Sanders stretch out on a self-penned, rare bass solo tune, “Which Persons?”. This is an inventive trio. “Major Hope” starts slowly and then builds as Clayton’s piano lines (and an understated organ) drive the harmonic themes. Bond: The Paris Sessions is a superb effort from a rising star.
TrackList: If I Were A Bell; Bond: The Cast; Bootleg Bruise; Major Hope; Bond: Fresh Squeeze; Snake Pit; Sun Glimpse; Which Persons?; 3D; Nobody Else But Me; All The Things You Are; Bond: The Release; Shout And Cry; Round Come Round; Hank; Bond: Burn (Hidden Track)
— Robbie Gerson