Vibraphonist Milt Jackson, 76, formed the roots of the Modern Jazz Quartet almost fifty years ago. That same lyrical quality that drives the MJQ stands before the fourteen-year-old Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, sharing, blending, and coaxing the melodies out of his vibraphone’s metal bars. The microphones are set up so that the listener has the same opportunity as one who is seated front and center, about seven rows back; piano and drums are on the left, while most of the horns are on the right. Jackson is in the center. The album offers much of the same material that was presented last January at the annual IAJE conference ( https://s3.amazonaws.com/allaboutjazz/old/articles/a0199_03.htm ).
Bassist John Clayton, Jr. solos with the bowed bass on "Major Deagan," while both he and alto saxophonist brother Jeff Clayton step up to the solo microphone on "Emily." The third co-leader of the orchestra, drummer Jeff Hamilton, accepts a feature role with swirling brushes on "Indiana." The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra begins a multi-year contract this year as ensemble in residence of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. With John Clayton, Jr. as artistic director, the Bowl’s 78th annual summer festival gets a welcome boost; this year’s program includes guests such as singer Shirley Horn, saxophonist Plas Johnson, trumpeter Jack Sheldon, the Count Basie All-Stars, guitarists Russell Malone, John Pizzarelli & Mark Whitfield, violinist Regina Carter, and singer Carmen Bradford.
The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra has a unique sound, as demonstrated best on "Deed I Do." The band favors the blues, every member solos, and the arrangements frequently involve soloists in pairs, trading fours. "Dee I Do," presents exciting solo work from each of the four trombonists, while "Evidence" includes a thrilling three-way conversation between trumpeters Oscar Brashear, Clay Jenkins, and Bobby Rodriguez. Milt Jackson’s vibraphone graces much of the album with his lyrical style and woven harmony. "Revibal Meeting" gets its title partly from one of Jackson’s nicknames, "Reverend." A septet featuring Jackson, the Clayton brothers, Hamilton, George Bohanon, Rickey Woodard, and Bill Cunliffe "delivers the sermon" with a salute to Milt Jackson’s lengthy career supporting good music.