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
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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