Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gerald Clayton: Two-Shade

Gerald Clayton (piano; b. 1984)
Two-Shade (EmArcy)

Gerald Clayton is a well experienced pianist with an excellent grasp of tradition. He has worked under and with some of the best musicians of recent years including Kenny Barron, Benny Green, Mulgrew Miller and his father and uncle John and Jeff Clayton (bass and sax respectfully). For me Clayton's style is more reminiscent of Benny Green in that he can be exciting and playful but with the agility to create a passionate and highly emotional atmosphere with his ballad work.

Gerald Clayton served in Roy Hargrove's band for the trumpeters most recent recordings (Earford and Emergence). This is were I first heard him and was struck at how mature his playing sounded. On Two-Shade (EmArcy), his debut as leader, he shows no signs of fear. One of the earliest tracks on disc, "Trapped In A Dream," demonstrates his musicianship and writing with rich reward. He can play it big as well; with his trio stretching out on the slightly funky groove of "Two Heads One Pillow." My favourite track, "Peace Of The Moment," is a ballad that exhibits a melodic beauty and inventiveness that many of his contemporaries cannot even construct.

The majority of the album are Clayton originals excluding two tracks (Cole Porter and Dizzy Gillespie standards) and they are truly noteworthy. His trio consisting of Joe Sanders (bass) and Justin Brown (drums) also show great command and fellowship within Clayton writings. Clayton develops a voice quickly with Two-Shade and its a wonderful journey to travel on with him and his band.

Two-Shade is a marvelous debut that is not only enjoyable and memorable, it has made a statement that Gerald Clayton is a dynamic performer and composer and may reach the next level faster than we might think. Highly recommended.

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