The Clayton Brothers' prior ArtistShare albums were high quality, thematically driven outings that highlighted their respect for notable jazz siblings on Brother To Brother (ArtistShare, 2008), and honored the relationship between the art forms of dance and jazz with The New Song And Dance (ArtistShare, 2010). For the group's third effort on this fan-funded imprint, The Claytons loosen the self-imposed thematic mandate, simply inviting a pair of high profile friends to join them and wrote some music to suit the expanded lineup.
The Clayton's could have turned to virtually anybody, given their many musical connections and high standing in the music world, but they wanted, to quote bassist John Clayton, a combination of "bluesy and edgy" in their guests. With vibraphonist Stefon Harris and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, they get just that. Harris combines melodic lyricism and modernism in his own work, while still showing due respect and reverence for the past. Gordon brings blues virtuosity, New Orleans swagger, raunchy repartee and the whole history of the music to bear with his horn in hand.
While the guests don't get the invite on three tracksa potent original ("Tsunami") and a pair of classic ballads that give pause to admire Jeff Clayton's alluring alto saxophone ("Don't Explain" and Benny Carter's "Souvenir")their personalities are at play everywhere else. Gordon joins in on the jaunty opener ("Friday Struttin'"), though his work is eclipsed by trumpeter Terell Stafford's brazen blowing, and Harris makes his first appearance on a bossa-ballad hybrid that features his vibes, along with Jeff Clayton's peaceable alto flute. Eddie Harris-style soul with a dash of saxophonist Cannonball Adderley come into play on "This Ain't Nothin' But A Party," and both guests get name-checked in a song apiece: "Stefon Fetchin' It" gives Harris a chance to tear it up and Gordon brings his joyful horn to bear on a tune that takes its title from his one of his nicknames"Coupe De Cone." The album closes with both men in the mix, as the septet touches on the lighter side of things ("Simple Pleasures") and swings their way out ("The Happiest Of Times").
Harris and Gordon each bring something welcome and new to this gathering, but the Clayton clan does just fine with or without their assistance. Stafford soars and stings, drummer Obed Calvaire stirs the pot, bassist John Clayton brings a sense of class and motion to the music, pianist Gerald Clayton paves the harmonic pathways for the group, and Jeff Clayton proves to be the melodic heart and soul of the band. These five men are all for one and one for all whenever they record and this album is no exception. Good vibes and great sounds abound here on another strong release from one of the best small bands in the business.
Friday Struttin'; Tsunami; Touch The Fog; This Ain't Nothin' But A Party; Stefon Fetchin' It; Don't Explain; Coupe De Cone; Somealways; Souvenir; Blues Gathering; Simple Pleasure; The Happiest Of Times.
Jeff Clayton: alto saxophone, alto flute; John Clayton: bass; Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Gerald Clayton: piano; Obed Calvaire: drums.
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