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Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: The L.A. Treasures Project

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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The exciting opener of this CD—the high-swinging welcome of "I Love Being Here with You"—foreshadows the next 64 minutes of tight, crackling arrangements that are impeccably rendered and full of joy. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, (CHJO) founded in 1985, has always been known for its full-hearted, world-class playing. The "L.A Treasures" of this title refers to the soulful veteran vocalists, Barbara Morrison and Ernie Andrews, who get four splendid features apiece, each one gleaming anew in its luscious orchestral setting. Examples are Morrison's delightful delivery of "Exactly Like You" and her sultry climb on "Fever"; for his part, Andrews shows his eloquent way with a lyric on "Beautiful Friendship" and takes the blues home on "The Jug and I."

This live session is rounded out by five rousing instrumentals, including a solo feature for marvelous guitarist Graham Dechter ("I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues"). Dechter first arranged this tune for his 2009 quartet debut for Capri Records Ltd. that was entitled Right on Time; it reaches its ultimate power in John Clayton's big-band adaptation, where his dynamic playing demonstrates how far this prodigy has come in his subsequent years with the CHJO. Other standout moments occur when multi-reedist co-leader Jeff Clayton supplies the haunting alto flute to the dual-bass reverie of "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," and the ever-elegant pianist Tamir Hendelman contributes his good humor to the delightful "Hat's Dance." The blazing tenor battle on the closer also offers additional evidence that Jeff Hamilton is the greatest big band drummer of all time. How fortunate for us that he's best friends with John Clayton, who knows how to make the most satisfying use of the orchestra's colors and textures; for example, note how he chooses the dark and burnished voice of Lee Callet's baritone sax as the ultimate sonic contrast to Morrison's first chorus on "Exactly Like You."

Anyone who has seen the CHJO live knows that Clayton dances as he conducts. He once explained that band members have a tendency to get so absorbed in their colleagues' solos that they miss their own cues to come back in; as such, his body language is less for audience entertainment than to keep the players ahead of what's coming next. Such mutual admiration and affection among its musicians is part of what makes the CHJO so distinctive—that, and the irresistible sound of these incomparable masters having the time of their lives.

Track Listing: I Love Being Here With You; Exactly Like You; The Jug And I; Hat's Dance; I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; Got To Get Back To L.A.; Goodbye Porkpie Hat; River's Invitation; Beautiful Friendship; I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues; Time After Time; Fever; Jazz Party.

Personnel: John Clayton: arco bass, Jeff Clayton: alto saxophone; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet; James Ford: trumpet; Brian Swartz: trumpet; Jamie Hovorka: trumpet; Ira Nepus: trombone; George Bohanon: trombone; Ryan Porter: trombone; Maurice Spears: trombone; Keith Fiddmont: alto saxophone; Ricky Woodard: tenor saxophone; Charles Owens: tenor saxophone; Lee Callet: baritone saxophone; Tamir Hendelman: piano; Christopher Luty: bass; Graham Dechter: electric guitar; Ernie Andrews: vocals; Barbara Morrison: vocals.

Title: The L.A. Treasures Project | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Capri Records

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