Archive for gerald clayton

2014 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2014 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2014 by curtjazz

Here we go with the second of the two major Jazz Grammy races; Best Instrumental Jazz Album. Like the award for the vocalists, this award seems to carry a bit more prestige than the others, whether it’s deserved or not. Also like the Jazz Vocal Album award, this year’s race features its strongest field in quite a while. Any of these five nominees would be a worthy winner. But as in all of the other categories, name recognition and industry politics will likely play a role in who comes out on top. A couple of notable things: First, although Hall of Famers Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter released new projects this year, neither has been nominated in this category. Second, two record labels split the all of the nominations for the category, Concord Jazz and Mack Avenue.

The nominees are:

The New Gary Burton Quartet: Guided Tour (Mack Avenue Records)

Guided Tour is the second offering from Gary Burton’s latest group, a strong aggregation, which includes four virtuoso players, including Julian Lage who is a terrific young guitarist and the amazing Antonio Sanchez on drums. The music is easy-going and extremely well performed. However when I first heard it, it left me a bit cold and that feeling has never gone away. Nevertheless, I pick them as a favorite to win because of Burton’s familiarity with the voters.

Terri Lyne Carrington: Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz Records)

One of the most pleasant surprises of the Grammy ceremony two years ago was Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy win for her brilliant album The Mosaic ProjectOn this follow-up, Ms. Carrington decided to do something fairly daring; re-imagining the one of the holy books in jazz’s canon, the Money Jungle album that featured the once in a lifetime trio of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. With Gerald Clayton on piano and Christian McBride on bass, Carrington  thankfully chooses not to recreate the originals but instead uses them as starting points for some interesting interpretations. Guest spots from Lizz Wright, Antonio Hart and longtime Carrington mentor Clark Terry help to give fresh perspective. It’s a tight race in this category and Ms. Carrington has won before. I’d give her a solid chance to do it again.

Gerald Clayton: Life Forum (Concord Jazz Records)

Life Forum represents another in a string of Grammy nominations for this increasingly busy young pianist. It was a departure from his previous trio focused efforts and included vocalists (Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani) and horns (Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Logan Richardson). These additions added a spark and warmth that had been missing from Clayton’s prior albums, making it his most listenable project. But because he is the “baby” of this bunch, he is a long shot to win on Sunday night.

Kenny Garrett: Pushing the World Away (Mack Avenue Records)

Pushing the World Away is Kenny Garrett’s second consecutive nomination in this category. It was kind of surprising to see Garrett return with another strong album within 12 months of his last one (Seeds from the Underground) but Mr. Garrett said that he felt that he “had a lot of music” in him after the last project. Which may explain why Pushing the World Away sounds relatively similar to its predecessor. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world as I felt that Seeds… was one of 2012’s best Jazz albums and one of the bests of Garrett’s long career. I wouldn’t make him the favorite but I’m getting a sneaking feeling that he just may pull this off.

Christian McBride Trio: Out Here (Mack Avenue Records)

This is a back to basics trio date with two very exciting featuring the best (and busiest) bassist in jazz with two young cohorts; pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. There’s nothing new here but what they do, they do stunningly well. It’s three world-class musicians, playing some standards, some originals and a couple of fun surprises. I’m personally rooting for these cats but based on Grammy’s history in this category, I don’t think they will win.

So here is my bottom line unscientific prediction:

  • Should Win: Christian McBride Trio
  • Will Win: The New Gary Burton Quartet

In the next post, we will touch on what is surprisingly, the most eclectic group of nominees in this year’s jazz categories – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.


Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2012 Grammys, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2012 by curtjazz

This category is also dominated by familiar names; with one very promising newcomer.

The nominees are:

Gerald Clayton – Bond: The Paris Sessions (Emarcy/Decca): Track “If I Were A Bell”

Though this is only Mr. Clayton’s second album as a leader he is a young veteran at 27, having shedded for many years alongside his dad and uncle, in the Clayton Brothers and working with many of the other gifted young cats on the scene.  Bond… is a very good album; with the pianist and his trio seamlessly moving between standards and originals.  It may not be enough in this field laden with transcendent names, but we’ll see.

Corea, Clarke & White – Forever (Concord): Track “Armando’s Rhumba”

Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, the famed rhythm section of ’70’s fusion giants Return To Forever; jamming over 2 discs worth of favorites from their 2009 “RTF Unplugged” Tour. Nothing new here, but what there is, is top notch – a bunch of well known vets, doing what they do best. You would have to consider them one of the favorites to take home the trophy.

Fred Hersch – Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch was the first pianist to be asked to play a solo gig at the hallowed jazz club in 2005. He has now returned from a life threatening coma in 2009, to record and release this brilliant solo set. Again, he is a relative unknown in this field, but he would be a very deserving winner. (Note:  the accompanying track is not from Alone at the Vangaurd, but features another wonderful Hersch solo performance “Valentine”.)

Joe Lovano & Us Five – Bird Songs (Blue Note)

Another strong contender; Joe Lovano and Us Five brought the goods on this Charlie Parker tribute. It was more than a Bird regurgitation, but a reimaging of some of the tunes that Parker made famous. It was one of our Best of 2011 albums and I personally hope that Grammy rewards them as well.

Sonny Rollins – Road Shows – Vol. 2  (Doxy/Emarcy/Decca)

You know how Grammy feels about legends. And you also know that this album was a brilliant snapshot of Mr. Rollins 80th Birthday concert in 2010 (Another of our Best of 2011). Sonny Rollins is also a name that most of the non-jazz voters have heard of…Translation – like it or not, this is Newk’s award to lose.

Yellowjackets – Timeline (Mack Avenue): Track “Why Is It (Live)”

These cats would normally be in the “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” category, but I forgot, that doesn’t exist anymore (sarcasm).  In any case, Yellowjackets have been doing it for 30 years and they sound better than ever. If there were still two separate categories, they would be hands down winners.

2011 Atlanta Jazz Fest – Day 2 (5/29/11)

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on June 8, 2011 by curtjazz


Sunday at the Atlanta Jazz Fest started very well and ended not so well. And it had nothing to do with the music.

Sunday morning was a rare R & R day. The family and I got up, went out to breakfast, the came back to the hotel and went for a swim. We then head over to Piedmont Park. Traffic patterns were flowing better than Saturday, so we arrived in time to catch a bit of the last of the opening acts; The North Atlanta High School Jazz Band, under the direction of Adam Brooks. They were well rehearsed and swung nicely; it was a great treat to hear these promising kids as we were entering the park. They also featured a promising young vocalist named Brittany Carr, who performed an accomplished version of “Blue Skies”. Hopefully we’ll hear more from Ms. Carr in the future.

The young folks were an appetizer for the explosive main course that followed, in the person of trumpeter Sean Jones.  Mr. Jones was celebrating his birthday on Sunday and he was doing it in high style.  He kicked off his set with a scorching tune from his just released album No Need for Words, which managed to make it even hotter outside.  His band which included up and coming talent Brian Hogans on alto was every bit the equal of the leader (Mr. Hogans also has a new album out, titled Evidence of Things to Come – check it out!).  Set highlights were a take on Freddie Hubbard’s “Dear John” and two of the new numbers “Obsession” and “Momma”, which Jones dedicated to his mother, who in attendance, seeing him at a festival for the first time.

Next up was pianist Gerald Clayton, who has caused quite a bit of buzz in the jazz world of late.  Young Mr. Clayton is a talented pianist, whose style is a bit introspective and freely stretches boundaries.  He also loves to deconstruct standards, which he did to great effect on “My Shining Hour” and “Con Alma”. I enjoyed his set immensely. I can’t say the same for some of the audience, who seemed a bit confused and put-off by Clayton and his trio. I think the problem may have been that a trio like Clayton’s loses some of the intimacy that it needs, in a sprawling outdoor setting like the Atlanta Jazz Festival.  I noticed that a large part of the audience either left or turned their conversational volume up, which was a shame, because they missed some terrific music.

 My anticipation built after Clayton’s set, as we awaited Ninety Miles, the group featuring Stefon Harris on vibes, David Sánchez on tenor and Christian Scott on trumpet.   I expected this to be the highlight of what had already been a very fine festival.

However, I never got to see them.

While killing time after the Clayton set, my son and I decided to play catch.  While tossing the ball around, either a particle off of the ball or a gnat, flew into my left eye. I rubbed my eye to try to get the particle out. I think I rubbed it too hard. By the time we arrived back where my wife was sitting, her panicked reaction told the story. My eye had become extremely swollen and infected.  My wife and son pleaded with me to go to an urgent care or emergency room.  I finally acquiesced after getting a look at myself in my wife’s mirror.  As we packed up, Ninety Miles took the stage.  What I heard of them was great. Unfortunately, I only heard half of the first song.

Turns out that I had a scratched cornea; the doctor gave me eye drops, which soothed my eye and began the healing. It didn’t quell my disappointment though at having to miss what was likely a terrific festival closing set.

Overall, the 34th Atlanta Jazz Festival provided some great jazz and an awesome chance to relax with and hang with the family.  I can’t ask for much more than that.  We definitely plan on being back next year, but next time, I’ll wear goggles!

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Gerald Clayton Trio

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , on May 27, 2011 by curtjazz

Gerald Clayton is one of the most talked about young pianists working today. Clayton is the 27-year-old son of jazz bassist/bandleader/producer John Clayton. In just a few short years on the jazz scene Gerald Clayton has drawn raves from all segments of the jazz world and has attracted an audience that includes hip-hoppers; be-boppers; avant-garde lovers and every hyphenate in between.

Clayton began his piano studies at age seven. His teachers have included famed pianists Kenny Barron and Billy Childs.  In 2006, he finished second  in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition. He made his bones in the groups fronted by his dad and uncle – The Clayton Brothers and the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. He has also backed a number of well-known singers; including Diana Krall, Michael Buble and Roberta Gambarini.  He has  also written arrangements and played piano on the most  recent albums by trumpet master Roy Hargrove (Emergence) and rising trumpet star Ambrose Akinmusire (When the Heart Emerges Glistening).

In 2009, Gerald Clayton made his debut recording as a leader; Two-Shade. It earned a Grammy for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” for his version of Cole Porter’s “All of You”.  Earlier this month, he released his second album, another trio date: Bond – The Paris Sessions. More Grammy noms may follow for this disc, as it includes many dynamite originals plus interesting reworkings of jazz and popular standards.

The Gerald Clayton Trio will appear at the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, this Sunday May 29th, at 7 p.m. I’ll be checking them out. I hope you will too.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:

For further information about Gerald Clayton, visit his website:

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Let’s GO!

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by curtjazz

2011 Official AJF Artwork - created by Daniel Murdoch

I’ve lived in the South for over 10 years now. There’s much about my life here that I like, but I’ve always missed the easy access to great straight ahead jazz that New York always provided.  Hell, even “smooth” jazz has become hard to find recently.

I’d recently settled into a certain amount of complacency about hearing jazz live. Basically, if it didn’t fall right into my lap. I admit, I didn’t make a lot of effort to find it. Well, that will change in 2011. There is a good deal of live jazz below the Mason-Dixon line, you just have to seek it, find it and then, here’s the hardest part…get off your “rusty dusty” and go.

Last Saturday night, my Queen and I were sitting around relaxing. Our son was asleep and the house was quiet. She looked up her work schedule for the next two weeks and discovered that she had been blessed with the entire Memorial Day weekend off.  Excitedly, she said to me “Baby, we should do something!” We kicked around a few ideas, and then I remembered that the Atlanta Jazz Fest was traditionally on Memorial Day weekend.

Gerald Clayton

I knew of the AJF, but hadn’t paid much attention in the past, because a) usually one (or both) of us had to work that weekend and b) I had assumed that it was another package of slick instrumentalists and R & B vocalists, passing itself off as a “jazz” festival. Don’t get me wrong, I dig some of these artists. Many are quite gifted; it’s just not what I look for when I want to hear jazz. Well, you know what happens when you assume.

I looked at the lineup and saw Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Sean Jones, Gerald Clayton, Christian Scott and more…Okay, NOW I was excited! These are my people. This is a place that the fan and the writer in me wants to be.

Regina Carter

My wife, asked cautiously “Okay, how much are the tickets?” I looked down at computer screen and then looked up with what, judging from my wife’s reaction, must have been a look of maniacal joy and I slowly uttered “It’s…Free” (5/28 & 5/29). She repeated my words, I nodded and she said “Let’s GO!”

Sean Jones

Thanks to the miracle of online shopping, within 30 minutes we had reserved our hotel room, reserved a rental car and bought three new lawn chairs. I had to tell somebody about this, even if it was midnight, so I dropped a note on Twitter to share the news with our extended jazz family. 

My excitement has been growing by the day since then.  Great jazz is on my Southern doorstep again; and this time, I’m going to answer.

We will post something on the blog every day, from now until the Atlanta Jazz Festival; about the festival itself, the artists or our preparation. For more on the AJF 2011, visit their website