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Buck Clayton Legacy Band: Claytonia

Jack Bowers By

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Buck Clayton, an acclaimed trumpet soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra in the late 1930s and early '40s, had lip surgery in 1969 that all but ended his playing career. After setting the trumpet aside for good in 1979, he turned full-time to composing and arranging, and the Buck Clayton Big Band made its debut in 1986 at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The year before, he had become friends with British bassist Alyn Shipton who offered words of advice about Clayton's autobiography. After Clayton passed away in 1991 at age ninety, his co-author, Nancy Miller Elliott, handed Shipton a box of Clayton's music with a message from Buck: "You kept my memory alive with the book, maybe you can do the same with my music?"

It was a request that Shipton couldn't turn down, and in 2004 he and German-born tenor saxophonist Matthias Seuffert—who had meticulously arranged Clayton's music from a variety of lead sheets, scores and other parts—launched the Buck Clayton Legacy Band at Switzerland's Ascona Jazz Festival. The nonet continues to perform as often as possible, and Claytonia was recorded during its first British tour in the spring of 2011. Even though Clayton is no longer with us, his spirit is alive and well, thanks to Seuffert's refulgent charts and stout-hearted blowing by everyone in the ensemble.

Clayton's music is for the most part straight from the Swing Era, and the Legacy Band plays it as written, checking any movement toward its more contemporary impulses in deference to the maestro's purpose. In other words, this is a swing band in every sense of the word, giving Clayton's music its due in a series of animated themes whose swagger and buoyancy are all but contagious. Seuffert, whose craggy tenor harkens back to the days of Herschel Evans, Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet and Georgie Auld, leads a superior front line that includes trumpeters Menno Daams and Ian Smith, trombonist Adrian Fry and alto saxophonist / clarinetist Alan Barnes. Meanwhile, Shipton, pianist Martin Litton, guitarist Martin Wheatley and drummer Norman Emberson keep the rhythmic flames aglow.

Shipton has kept his word, preserving Buck Clayton's legacy in the best way possible—by presenting his music to a new generation of listeners whose acceptance and pleasure would no doubt have made Clayton a happy man indeed.

Track Listing: Outer Drive; I’ll Make Believe; Party Time; Horn of Plenty; Scorpio; Claytonia; Smoothie; Sir Humphrey.

Personnel: Matthias Seuffert: tenor sax, clarinet, co-leader; Alyn Shipton: bass, co-leader; Menno Daams: trumpet; Ian Smith: trumpet; Alan Barnes: alto sax, clarinet; Adrian Fry: trombone; Martin Litton: piano; Martin Wheatley: guitar; Norman Emberson: drums.

Title: Claytonia | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Bclb (buck Clayton Legacy Band)

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