The Clayton Brothers, bassist John and alto saxophonist Jeff, last two albums “Brother to Brother,” and “The New Song and Dance” were examples of the roaring swing that’s been their business model since opening shop in 1980 with “It’s All in the Family”. It didn't take the brothers long to cement a brand that's equal to the Addlerly's, the Heath's and the Jones' brothers.
The 6th of November, the Clayton brothers released their eighth studio album “The Gathering,” and they have two of their friends--trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and vibraphonist Stefon Harris--over for drinks. To make Gordon and Harris feel at home, the Clayton’s custom built tunes for them such as “Stefon Fetchin’ It” and “Coupe De Cone”. On this album, the Clayton's have a mi casa, su casa mentality. And Gordon takes full advantage of their hospitality.
Both Gordon and Harris are leading hell-raisers of their generation. But, on "The Gathering,” Gordon is lively, and Harris is a wallflower. It's not his fault. The Clayton's are the blame. On paper including Harris on the album is a good bet. Harris made some choice albums for Blue Note Records, and last year he teamed with saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Christian Scott for the killer album “Ninety Miles”.
The Claytons are the blame because they fail to give Harris a meaty role on “The Gathering” despite their best intentions. The core of the Clayton’s band pianist Gerald Clayton (John’s son), drummer Obed Calvaire and trumpeter Terell Stafford are solid throughout, particularly Stafford. His playing is lethal. Calvaire and Stafford aren’t blood but the Clayton brothers treat them like family.
The Clayton’s skills are in mint condition that's evident on the ballad “Don’t Explain,” which follows “This Ain’t Nothin’ But A Party,” the album’s best cut and the kind of high altitude swing the Claytons have a patent on. The cut gets you high. Following it with a ballad is a buzz kill. "The Gathering" won't stick to your ribs like The Clayton Brother's last two albums.