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

Edward Blanco By

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For nearly thirty-years now the Grammy-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO) has been easily recognizable as one of the best big bands in the business. Led by bassist John Clayton, saxophonist and brother Jeff Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, the group embarked on a mission to document their various rehearsals with West Coast vocal legends Ernie Andrews and Barbara Morrison, and do so with The L.A. Treasures Project recorded live in the famous Showroom of Alva's Dance Studio and Music Store in San Pedro, California.

Presenting a mixture of instrumentals and vocal numbers, the opening "I Love Being Here With You" seemed an appropriate start and message for the intimate crowd in the Showroom and features excellent solos from each member of the trombone section. Having 20 recordings to her credit, Morrison steps up to lay down a soulful rendition of the Dorothy Fields classic "Exactly Like You" with a little solo help from Lee Callet on the baritone saxophone. The crisp vocals of local legend Andrews takes over the music with a bluesy and sprite interpretation of the Percy Mayfield standard "The Jug and I," superbly aided by the big band orchestrations of the CHJO.

Co-leader Hamilton and pianist Tamir Hendelman take center stage on their composition "Hat's Dance" with the duo playing the lead as the band grooves gently behind them in fine support for one of the tender moments of the disc. The Clayton brothers take their turn in the spot light on the Charles Mingus piece "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" as Jeff Clayton's bluesy alto flute begins the journey that eventually leads to brother John's bowed bass play in unison with Christoph Luty's own bass performance. The two singers get back to form with Andrews getting sentimental on the standard "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," while the swinging Gospel vocalist Morrison belts the lyrics to "Got To Get Back To L.A.," one of her own compositions telling the world how she feels about the City.

Morrison delivers the lyrics on "River's Invitation" and the classic "Fever" as the veteran Andrews does the same on "Beautiful Friendship" and the Sammy Cahn favorite "Time After Time" completing their vocal contribution to this historic night but, the CHJO was not finished. The ensemble plays a powerful opening statement on "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues" only to turn it over to the electric guitar of Graham Dechter as he picks his way all through this terrific blues. In fitting form the CHJO ends the evening with "Jazz Party" elevating the excitement level with salvos fired by saxophonists Rickey Woodard and Charles Owens accompanied by one final pounding drum solo by Hamilton.

It's obvious that The L.A. Treasures Project refers to singers Andrews and Morrison but, not to be overlooked, is the CHJO, an unquestioned treasure that this time delivers a meaty program of standards and mainstream jazz with a vocal twist perfect as a precursor to the group's thirtieth anniversary in 2015.

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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