There’s a kind of instrumental music that is so loud and annoying that it will bring out the earplugs and go right through your chest. And then, there’s another kind of instrumental music that sways like semi-liquid through the room in a never-ending stream of lightweight embellishment. Although these forms of entertainment appeal to a wide audience, both lack substance and both prove to be quite forgettable in the end.
Here’s something much more substantial. Out of the Count Basie tradition, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra has been together in Los Angeles for 14 years. The three leaders - bassist John Clayton, Jr., his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton - favor creative music with a comfortable rhythm. Bassist Clayton paid his dues for two years with Count Basie and his Orchestra and for five years as principal bassist with the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. He performs a beautiful arco bass solo on the title track to open the session and performs Jobim’s "How Insensitive" as a duet with Hamilton to close the session. Clayton also serves as conductor and leaves most of the rhythm section bass work to Christoph Luty. Last year, Clayton was appointed Artistic Director of Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and Hollywood Bowl. Concomitantly, the CHJO has become the Bowl’s resident jazz orchestra. In that capacity, they perform with a wide variety of all-star jazz artists, from Diana Krall, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Shirley Horn and Cassandra Wilson, to Scott Hamilton and Clark Terry.
All but three of the selections on Shout Me Out! are originals from the leaders and band members. John Clayton’s "Grizzly" is an experiment in form, as the band with head melody never shows up until after Oscar Brashear, George Bohanon, Bill Cunliffe and bassist Luty have woven their improvised solos. Other pieces include rhythmic stomps and lush ballads that share the solo mic’ liberally. However, except for Charles Owens’ "One for Horace Tapscott," the band doesn’t loosen up. There’s even an opportunity for them to laugh and sing along as veteran trumpeter Snooky Young performs "I Want a Little Girl" with plunger mute and lyrics such as "If she can cook, she’ll suit me to a tee." It comes off well, but the band doesn’t convince. Some of the excitement has dissipated.
Each of the soloists brings a vocal style to the program: Rickey Woodard, Ira Nepus, Clay Jenkins, and particularly Jeff Clayton, who solos on alto saxophone and oboe. Did the Basie band work with vocalists? Some of the best ever, including Joe Williams. The CHJO, an all-star ensemble when it comes to sheer musicianship, may be in need of some special voice to lift them even higher.
Shout Me Out; Max (1999); Plunger Mute Syndrome; Yellow Flowers After; Grizzly; Day by Day; Nice to Meet You; One for Horace Tapscott; Barbara
John Clayton, Jr.- bass; Jeff Hamilton- drums; Jeff Clayton- alto saxophone, flute, oboe, piccolo; Keith Fiddmont- alto saxophone, clarinet; Rickey Woodard- tenor saxophone, clarinet; Charles Owens- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Lee Callet- baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Bijon Watson, Eugene "Snooky" Young, Oscar Brashear, Clay Jenkins, Bobby Rodriguez- trumpet; Ira Nepus, George Bohanon, Isaac Smith- trombone; Maurice Spears- bass trombone; Bill Cunliffe- piano; Cristoph Luty- bass; Jim Hershman- guitar.
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