Deservedly rising in public consciousness and critical acclaim from its West Coast cultish following, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO) possesses a quality that distinguishes it from other big bands: an unforced inherent swing. Taking a cue from Basie minimalism combined with a hard drive, CHJO can't help but ooze blues from every beat and every measure. The composition "Shout Me Out" assumes a Hefti-ish heavily accented anticipation of the beat, a la "Li'l Darling." "Plunger Mute Syndrome," once again a blues, arranges for an alternating brass-and-sax give-and-take as Basie piano tickles fill the fourth measures, just before 22-year-old trombone wunderkind Isaac Smith goes gutbucket with astounding results. On "Nice To Meet You," pianist Bill Cunliffe introduces the tune with a signature Basie-like single-note improvisation, backed by Jim Hershman's Freddie Green-like rhythm guitar, Christoph Luty's walking bass and Jeff Hamilton's lightly prodding drumwork.
Just as the listener thinks that CHJO captures and retains the spirit of Basie, the band includes an original ballad, "Yellow Flowers After," that transforms the band's exuberance into an expression of loss akin to "I Remember Clifford." Charles Owens' lilting remembrance of his friend on "One For Horace Tapscott" reworks a fairly simple phrase into a soaring soprano sax flight supported elegantly by Bill Cunliffe and Jeff Hamilton before the band intensifies the feeling through crescendo and extended climax.
After ten big band arrangements that inspire the individual musicians to a high degree of unity and personalized solos, the biggest surprise is the conclusion: John Clayton's virtuosity on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive," the nuances of Clayton's style accented by Hamilton's sensitive percussive like-mindedness.
Shout Me Out; Max; Plunger Mute Syndrome; Yellow Flowers After; Grizzly; Day By Day; Nice To Meet You; One For Horace Tapscott; Barbara's Rose; I Want A Little Girl; How Insensitive
John Clayton, Jr., arco bass; Jeff Clayton, alto sax, flute, oboe, piccolo; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Bijon Watson, "Snooky" Young, Oscar Brashear, Clay Jenkins, Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet; Ira Nepus, Geoge Bohanon, Isaac Smith, Maurice Spears, trombone; Keith Fiddmont, alto sax, clarinet; Rickey Woodard, tenor sax, clarinet; Charles Owens, soprano & tenor sax, clarinet; Lee Callet, baritone sax & bass clarinet; Bill Cunliffe, piano; Jim Hershman, guitar; Christoph Luty, bass
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.