Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at Mesa Arts Center

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Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Mesa Arts Center
Mesa, Arizona
March 7, 2014

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
b.1995
band/orchestra
, one of the best big bands in the nation for three decades, swung mightily all night long with strong section work and stylish solos arranged for specific members, per Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
. A brief post-intermission QA period from triumverate co-leaders bassist John Clayton
John Clayton
John Clayton
b.1952
bass, acoustic
, saxophonist Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
b.1954
saxophone
and drummer Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
b.1953
drums
added personal insights for a full house of enthusiastic Arizona fans.

With John Clayton fronting the band as director, the concert opened with "Georgia on My Mind," the usual ballad treatment swapped for a fast-driving arrangement with ample space for tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard
Rickey Woodard
Rickey Woodard
b.1950
saxophone
to first croon the intro, then burn his way to the end. The bebop mode of Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
's classic "Eternal Triangle" let more of the reeds section contribute, including Lee Callet's throaty baritone, searing alto work by Keith Fiddmont and Jeff Clayton, and the tenor warmth of 74-year-old Charles Owens
Charles Owens
b.1939
(who was born in Phoenix), before the section harmonized a la Supersax 2.0.

A musical twist took Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
1899 - 1981
piano
's 1938 "Heart and Soul" out of simple piano-duet status, Jeff Clayton supplying the melody on alto flute, replicated by his bassist brother's bowing richness and pianist Tamir Hendelman's purely captivating piano explorations of the simple melody line, Hamilton sweeping it along via inventive brushwork. Another change of pace was "Hat's Dance," a new original composed by Hendelman and drummer Hamilton, honoring the latter's 90-year-old mother, Harriet (nicknamed Hat) with a solid groove featuring more of Jeff Clayton's flute and the pianist's extraordinary command of the keys.

This band's command of dynamics, from musical murmurs to exciting roars, continued with a pair of tribute charts. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," composed in honor of Lester Young
Lester Young
Lester Young
1909 - 1959
saxophone
by bassist Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
(another Arizona native), featured more of Clayton's alto flute countering his brother's liquid-silver bass moves, as the brass wailed mournful minors and Owens' tenor crooned deep shades of blue. The second salute was bassist Ray Brown
Ray Brown
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
bass, acoustic
's "Buhaina Buhaina," the title referencing a nickname of drummer Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
when he briefly took the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina after he visited Africa in the late '40s. The combined sounds of Woodard's tenor and Jeff Clayton's flute with Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
b.1964
trumpet
on trumpet and John Clayton playing arco were underscored by Hamilton supple rhythm moves.

Hendelman launched Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
'x "Evidence" to set up Jenkins' crisp angular open-horn progressions as the sax section coalesced in unison. The anticipated "Indiana" (Hamilton's birthplace) was unexpectedly played in slow-meter, as was "Emily," both featuring the Clayton brothers on bowed bass and lyrical alto sax. The trombone section, three-quarters of which have been with the band since its 1985 inception, was featured on an upbeat "I Love Being Here with You," with solo spots by Ira Nepus, George Bohanon and Maurice Spears (bass t-bone). "Squatty Roo" from the Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
catalog for the Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
Orchestra featured solos by Woodard, Bohanon and Jenkins, fueled by Hamilton's slick sticks style.

Bassist Ray Brown
Ray Brown
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
bass, acoustic
's "Captain Bill" tribute to Count Basie was a lively delight, Hendelman playing like the Count as bassist Luty's solo channeled Walter Page
Walter Page
Walter Page
1900 - 1957
bass, acoustic
to support tenor man Owens again delivering a feature solo as Clayton turned into a dancing director during the orchestra's shout choruses, leading back to Hendelman's Basie-style finish.

The concert was the last in a series for John Clayton as artist-in-residence for the fourth year of the Mesa Arts Center's "Jazz from A to Z" program that focuses on music performance and music history as related to jazz. Clayton has led classes and workshops at the center and in schools for students and teachers, and the 550-seat theater's balcony was filled with high school students. Last year, he also performed in a quintet with his pianist son Gerald Clayton and alto saxophonist brother Jeff, plus Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
on trumpet and Obed Calvaire on drums. He also created and staged an intriguing bass trio with Rodney Whitaker
Rodney Whitaker
Rodney Whitaker
b.1968
bass, acoustic
and Victor Wooten
Victor Wooten
Victor Wooten
b.1964
bass
.

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