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“John Clayton is one of the most technically imposing bassists in jazz… Jeff maintains a sweet, preaching delivery; the Adderley influence runs deep in him.” – The New York Times

John and Jeff Clayton

Clayton Brothers, THE GATHERING

“John and Jeff Clayton are two of the most soulful, swinging siblings on the planet.” – NPRJazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater

Stream Tracks From The Gathering


A new Clayton Brothers release is always a family affair – not only due to the actual blood ties of siblings John and Jeff Clayton and son/nephew Gerald, but in the sense that quintet-mates Terell Stafford and Obed Calvaire have become part of the Claytons’ extended musical family through years of touring and recording.

On their new ArtistShare release, The Gathering, that family extends even further with the addition of trombone great Wycliffe Gordon and vibraphone wizard Stefon Harris. “We realized that we’ve got so many friends in the business that we like playing with,” says John. “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could pair up with a couple of them and create this new Clayton Brothers sound?”

Using various configurations of this expanded line-up, the Claytons take full advantage of the new sonic and harmonic possibilities granted to them, while staying firmly rooted in the classic Clayton Brothers sound. Raucous hard bop, tender ballads, deep blues and soul-stirring funk all combine to create a typically wide-ranging and moving – in more ways than one – experience.

After decades playing with virtually every seasoned legend and young lion in jazz, it’s safe to say that the Claytons had their pick of collaborators for The Gathering. They chose to invite Gordon and Harris due to the very specific dimensions they could add to the Brothers’ established sound. “We wanted both bluesy and edgy, and we get that from both of these guys, individually and collectively,” John says. “Wycliffe Gordon plays serious blues like other people can’t play. With Stefon, you can feel the roots, but you can hear the progress. You can hear the tomorrow.”

“We do a lot of things but we don’t necessarily have that New Orleans feel in our band,” continues Jeff. “Wycliffe is definitely from the Louis Armstrong era and forward to more modern things. And Stefon pushes the envelope. His group Blackout plays some very cutting edge music, so he brings this edge that we get to try to be a part of.”

The celebratory nature of The Gathering is represented by two aptly-named, rollicking new pieces, John’s swaggering “Friday Struttin'” and Jeff’s boisterous “This Ain’t Nothing But a Party,” written in the Les McCann/Eddie Harris tradition.

“This is about a party,” Jeff says. “We knew we could just have fun.”

The Brothers seized the opportunity to compose new music with their guests particularly in mind. Jeff penned the breezy, down-home “Coupe de Cone” for Gordon after an intensive study of the versatile ‘bonesman’s own recordings. “‘Coupe de Cone’ is a representation of the elements of Wycliffe that I thought would make him feel comfortable,” Jeff says. “He exhibited great playing in grand fashion, as he always does.”

The fleet, darting lines of “Stefon Fetchin’ It” were John’s idea to showcase Harris’ staggering dexterity. “Watching Stefon play is like watching a ballet dancer,” he says. And that really is communicated through the music.”

John’s moody, ethereal “Touch the Fog” was devised to pair his brother’s breathy alto flute with Harris’ supernal vibes playing. And Jeff crafted “Simple Pleasures,” an elegant ballad that evokes Shirley Horn and Duke Ellington, to shine a spotlight onto Harris and pianist Gerald Clayton, and their unparalleled ability to express heartfelt emotion in the classic style.

Gerald’s more modern approach to a ballad is evidenced in the flowing “SomeAlways,” which his father first heard when Gerald sat at the piano during a visit home. “When I heard him play it at the piano it sounded almost like a chorale,” John remembers. “Since that was my first impression I went with it and tried to create that vibe I initially felt when I heard him play it for me.”

The opportunity to engage in a blues with Gordon on hand proved irresistible, resulting in ‘Blues Gathering.’ John says that while there have been Clayton Brothers recordings that didn’t include a blues, they rarely share a stage without at least one. “We’re so steeped in the blues,” he says. “It’s so natural. One of the phrases that we hear often from students is that something is “only a blues.” It feels like a second-rate citizen in the minds of too many people, and it’s totally not that for us. We could easily do a whole set of blues and be in heaven.”

Jeff delved into somewhat darker emotions for the tense, angular “Tsunami,” inspired by the recent disasters in Japan which occurred shortly after the Clayton Brothers had toured the country. “A lot of our friends got caught in the tsunami and its devastating effect,” he recalls. “But instead of focusing on only the negative, devastating aspects, I thought of all the elements that create a tsunami and tried to put them in the composition. I wanted you to hear the water and the buildings and the devastation, and then hear the water pulling back.”

The repertoire on The Gathering also includes a pair of jazz classics reinvented in the Claytons’ inimitable style. Jeff’s keening alto wrings every ounce of sentiment from his mentor Benny Carter’s “Souvenir,” which he played for almost a decade while in the Frank Capp/Nat Pierce Juggernaut Band. As John recalls, his brother “spilled his soul” on the first take, then asked for a second, recalling Carter’s frequent injunction that “I wrote that melody for a reason.”

“In other words, don’t screw up my music,” John laughs. So we did a second take and everybody in the booth looked at each other and shook our heads like, ‘No, we want Jeff Clayton back.’ So we went back to the first take and let my brother be himself. I’m sure Benny would appreciate that.”

The three Claytons go it alone on John’s haunting arrangement of the Billie Holiday classic “Don’t Explain,” where the melody is traded between John’s bowed bass and Jeff’s melancholy alto. The three intone the words “Hush now” and “Quiet” like the whisper of a memory directly into the listener’s ear. “I wanted it to sound like it was coming from another time,” John says, “like it was coming from a crypt.”

The entire ensemble assembles again for Jeff’s “The Happiest of Times,” which sums up the Brothers’ current state of mind in both title and in its joyous sound. “It’s a testament to the way I feel about where we are now,” Jeff says. “We’ve had a couple of Grammy nominations – no wins, but we’re on the map – we’re playing and traveling, we all have our health and God is good, so it’s the happiest of times.”

Upcoming Clayton Brothers Appearances:

November 5 / Sherman Clay Showroom / Santa Clara, CA
November 6-7 / Jazz Alley / Seattle, WA
November 8 / Jimmy Mak’s / Portland, OR
November 9 / Jazz Bakery-Musician’s Institute Concert Hall / Los Angeles, CA
January 27 – February 3, 2013 / The Jazz Cruise / Various Locations

The GatheringTrack Listing/Personnel

1. Friday Struttin’ (John Clayton) – 7:37
2. Tsunami (Jeff Clayton) – 6:05
3: Touch The Frog (John Clayton) – 5:50
4. This Ain’t Nothin’ But A Party (Jeff Clayton) – 7:29
5. Stefon Fetchin’ It (John Clayton) – 3:36
6. Don’t Explain (Holiday/Herzog, Jr.) – 6:11
7. Coupe De Cone (Jeff Clayton) – 7:04
8. SomeAlways (Gerald Clayton) – 6:02
9. Souvenir (Benny Carter) – 6:02
10. Blues Gathering (John Clayton) – 6:15
11. Simple Pleasures (Jeff Clayton) – 5:12
12. The Happiest of Times (Jeff Clayton) – 5:16

Jeff Clayton: Alto Sax, Alto Flute
John Clayton: Bass
*Terrell Stafford: Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Gerald Clayton: Piano
Obed Calvaire: Drums

*Appears on all tracks with the exception of “Don’t Explain” and “Souvenir”

Special Guests:
Wycliffe Gordon: Trombone – Tracks 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12
Stefon Harris: Vibes – Tracks 3, 5, 11, 12

For more information on the Clayton Brothers, please visit: johnclaytonjazz.com

For more information on ArtistShare, please visit: artistshare.com

::: SOURCE: DL Media :::