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Jim Clayton's Greenhouse: Muskoka

Jim Santella By

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Jim Clayton's ensemble has the same instrumental make-up as several editions of The Yellowjackets, and the first track, "Full Yellow Jacket," incorporates elements of Yellowjackets arranging as well. But the Greenhouse incorporates a wide range of styles in its arrangements and the quartet allows room for each of its members to speak out. Pat Wheeler holds the lead voice, and with her fluid saxophone tone is able to achieve distinct moods for the varied compositions. Leader and pianist Clayton speaks out as well, with solo passages and in various instrumental combinations. Drummer Humphreys maintains a hefty rock beat throughout, and bassist Levesque shows a remarkably lyrical side. On "Lady J.," for example, Levesque and Wheeler team up for a unison electric bass / soprano sax statement of the melody that gently pours out with the phrasing of a natural vocalist. In fact, the bassist gently evokes sounds on "Muskoka" that resemble the singing of an expressive contralto voice.

As "Torn" refers to the inner conflict one faces in choosing to perform (and listen to) contemporary jazz or straight-ahead bebop-derived ventures, Clayton's compositions reflect elements from both, of course, but the emphasis is on a smooth approach. "Kelly's Waltz" is a lullaby, "Somnia" is a dreamy piece, and "Muskoka" evokes the image of a lovely Sunday drive; each of them relies on the stability of a simple, listenable melody played over sustained keyboard drones.

"When Giants Fall" and "Smooth Groovely," however, take a different approach. With a touch of funk, energetic R&B tenor saxophone, and an exciting organ trio, these two selections swing out and allow the Greenhouse members a chance to swing. "Smooth Groovely," in particular, adds the rhythm guitar and provides Wheeler the opportunity to stretch out in a soulful manner. Quality is maintained on every selection of the recording, but the two pieces with organ trio and tenor saxophone provide more improvisation than the smoother sounds of the others. The band has a web site atwww.interlog.com/~jclayton .


Track Listing:

Full Yellow Jacket; Somnia; Lady J.; Muskoka; Torn; When Giants Fall; Kelly's Waltz; Smooth Groovely.

Title: Muskoka | Year Released: 1997

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