Monday, September 14, 2009

PRACTICE SESSION

Pianist Gerald Clayton Dear Bud Powell,

I’m Charles L. Latimer. I published this jazz blog. I won’t consume much of your time. You’re probably busy practicing or composing. I want to tell you about this fantastic young piano player. His name is Gerald Clayton. He’s a native Californian. He’s 25-year-old, and his dad is the renowned bassist John Clayton of the Clayton-Hamilton orchestra.

I had the opportunity to hear the pianist last Tuesday evening in an intimate setting. Gerald performed two solo sets in the living room of Andrew and Diane Rothman’s home in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The Rothman’s run an organization call the Detroit Groove Society. They host home concerts. Some notable jazz musicians such as pianists George Cables and Bill Mays have performed in the Rothman’s home.

Andy is a lawyer, pianist and avid jazz enthusiast. Andy is a decent piano player. A few years ago, I interviewed him for an article about his organization afterwards he played a piece of music he was studying.

During the interview he joked that he only pursued law after realizing he did not have the chop to make it as a professional musician. I concluded after listening to him that he would’ve been a good pianist had he stuck with it. I’ve only attended two of their concerts. I must admit the concerts were a classy affair. The attendees thoroughly enjoy the music, and the Rothman’s seem to have a grand time hosting.

Gerald quipped it was the first time he’d practiced in front of an audience. He was
kidding, of course, but I felt he was serious. Mr. Powell, both sets were exceptional. Gerald played as if he’d mapped out the performance months beforehand, performing selections from his new album “Two-Shade” and a handful of jazz standards.

Mr. Powell you should buy Gerald’s album. His influences are obvious. When plays in this dad’s quintet, I recognized traces of Gene Harris’ DNA in Gerald’s soloing. At the solo concert, I felt your spirit in the room coaching Gerald on what lines to play. Like you Gerald's play are sophisticated.

That evening Gerald played, he some ragtime, swing, bebop, and the blues. I heard Gerald twice before. I first heard him on trumpeter’s Roy Hargrove’s album “Ear Food”. Gerald floored me. He never got in Hargrove’s way. Gerald was gracious and treated the piano with respect. He did not beat on it as if he was angry at it. His soloing was concise yet memorable. I’ve been turning friends on to Gerald since at last year Detroit International Jazz Festival.

Mr. Powell if you have some free time check out some of Gerald’s performances on YouTube, track down the Hargrove’s date and listen to “Brother to Brother”. On the latter album, Gerald plays with his dad and uncle. You get an adequate sampling of Gerald’s diversity.

I hate to make predictions. However, when discussing Gerald I can’t help it. Someday he’ll be just as accomplished as his dad who has won a Grammy arranged from the likes of vocalists Nancy Wilson and Whitney Houston. Mr. Powell thanks for giving me a minute of your time. I hope I inspired you to investigate Gerald. I’m sure you’ll discover you influenced him plenty.

Best wishes,
Charles
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