Gerald Clayton – Two-Shade – Emarcy

by | Jul 22, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Gerald Clayton – Two-Shade – Emarcy B0013958-02, 68:42 ****:

(Gerald Clayton, piano; Joe Sanders, bass; Justin Brown, drums)

Gerald Clayton’s latest release on Emarcy, Two-Shade, describes itself in the linear notes as being an exploration of different musical styles “not just in a patchwork format” but rather creating a “harmonic whole”. The album not only achieves this aesthetic goal but transcends it by being ‘two-shade’ on an emotional level. The most superb tracks on the album have emotional layers and subtext that many players and composers only dream of creating. Clayton, with Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums, has created  a rich – at times strange – album that shows the formation of what should be a unique voice in jazz.

Boogablues, the opening track, packs a quality punch. Clayton and Sanders punctuate their playing powerfully, and keep the rhythm tight. Solos are brief and funky, so that the track never loses steam. When the band picks up steam about halfway through the piece the trio creates more bluster than some octets. Brown has a hard and loud sound on this track that other jazz drummers could stand to emulate

Two Heads One Pillow
is a fascinating composition. The title indicates that it may be a romantic ballad, but there is a tension to the music that suggests a rocky relationship at best. At one point the band sings “cause’ that’s the way that it goes, two heads one pillow”. Sanders’ bass line provides the groove and adds that slight bit of danger to the song’s spine that clues the listener in to the fact that not all is well. Clayton hangs with his rhythm section, keeping his playing hewn to Sanders’ bass.

Casiotone Pothole lives up to its title with Clayton playing haunting keyboard lines. He skillfully explores the evocative power of the Casiotone, creating a sound like an undead choir. The interludes of straight piano with no accompaniment are equally melancholy, lending the whole track an eerie feeling. Even when the tempo picks up at around the three minute mark the strangeness of the song remains intact.

The band gets an energetic workout on Scrimmage. Sanders brings a rapid-paced walking bass line and Brown doesn’t let the cymbals relax for even a moment. Clayton’s playing is looser and less melodically tight, but more exhilarating for it.

Con Alma closes out the album with another melancholy track. These more emotional numbers really bring out Clayton’s strengths. He creates a lyrical sound heard no where else on the album. He plays without accompaniment, which strips the emotion of any place to hide. Based on this track alone, Clayton could easily record a solo album.

Two-Shade repeatedly confounds the listener’s expectations, and jazz fans will be pleased by the surprising results.

TrackList: Boogablues, Trapped In Dream, Two Heads One Pillow, Peace for the Moment, All of You, Love All Around, Casiotone Pothole, One Two You, Sunny Day Go, Scrimmage, You’re Out, Con Alma.

– Ethan Krow

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