Monday, October 11, 2010

Pianist Gerald Clayton
I was concerned I wouldn’t get to hear your final set Saturday night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. When I arrived, people were waiting to get inside. Fortunately, I bumped into Andre and Lisa Reid, friends from high school. They were next on the waiting list, and Lisa knew the hostess. She set them at a table with enough room for a third person, so my friends invited me to join them. They’re celebrating their eleventh anniversary. 'Dre even paid for my drink. Lisa picked the restaurant, and 'Dre was anxious to hear your band-mate drummer Justin Brown. Lisa has become a serious jazz fan. Before the set began, she talked about the wonderful time she had at the Detroit jazz fest this year, and she likes saxophonist Stan Getz and Abby Lincoln. My friends heard you’re a promising jazz pianist and bandleader, but that’s all they knew about you, so as an anniversary gift, I shared some of your history. I told them you’re 26-year-old, and you’re born in the Netherlands, but you grew up in California. You served an apprenticeship in trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s band. At the Detroit Jazz fest in 2008, I heard you play for the first time. Your style caught me off guard. Many jazz pianists play the piano as though they’re mad at it. At the jazz fest, you played gracefully. I yapped on and on about your solo performance at the Detroit Groove Society concert series in 2009.

That afternoon, you performed every form of African-American music. I told my friends you come from a musical family. Your pop, John Clayton, is a Grammy winner and an internationally known jazz bassist and composer. Your uncle, Jeff, is an outstanding alto saxophonist. My friends asked about your discography. I explained you’ve only been a bandleader for a few years, so you only have one album on the books as a leader. However, you performed on Hargrove’s excellent album “Ear Food”, and “Brother to Brother” and “The New Song and Dance”, two dates co-led by your pop and uncle. Last year you released a highly anticipated debut “Two-Shade”. I added although “Two-Shade was an impressive coming out album, it failed to capture how gifted you are. Brad Meldau’s influence is evident in your playing. That's all I said about the album of your debut, figuring you’d perform some tracks from “Two-Shade”.

Gerald, I gathered from my friends applauding after each solo, they enjoyed the set. The entire set, Brown’s drum work excited them. 'Dre was hyped. Gerald, I’ve attended many concerts at the Dirty Dog. This was the first time the crowd was attentive. I only have one bone to pick with you. You should've announced the tunes. That’s one of my pet peeves. Oftentimes, jazz musicians neglect to announce or to preface tunes. Anyway, after the set, Lisa asked for my thoughts. Honestly, I’ve heard you swing harder, I told her. The Dirty Dog attracts a conservative crowd. They probably would be unresponsive to a band wilding out. Not to suggest your trio is prone to horsing around. You kept the set respectable. It was ingenious how you stitched together four compositions, playing them as if they’re a suite. It was supernatural how you guys read each other’s thoughts. Your trio was responsible for my friends having a joyous eleventh anniversary although 'Dre complained the $20.00 hamburger he ordered was slightly bigger than a White Castle burger. Nonetheless, they only had wonderful comments about the music.
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