John and Gerald Clayton: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

As co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, bassist John Clayton has often performed at the Kennedy Center in a vibrantly expansive setting. Saturday night at the KC Jazz Club, however, the mood was defined by an intimate pairing of bass and piano, father and son.

Gerald Clayton, a 24-year-old pianist who placed second in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Competition, is already an accomplished composer and improviser with a penchant for the blues. His solos were often dotted with trills, tremolos and a rumbling left hand that conjured seminal jazz piano traditions, and yet his thoroughly modern harmonic vocabulary was often subtly deployed.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Pere Clayton described the father-son format as a process of "finding each other," and as the program unfolded, the duets were marked by series of quick-witted exchanges, elegant contrapuntal designs and playful parries and thrusts. Now and then, too, the musicians locked into the same theme, adroitly harmonizing angular, bop-inspired intervals or infusing a romantic melody with a warm glow.

The bassist, who has recently recorded similar "parlor" sessions with pianists Hank Jones and Mulgrew Miller, was content to play a supportive role much of the time and, judging by the grin on his face, he took great delight in anticipating the next move made by his offspring. Still, for all the spontaneity, the opening set's blend of original tunes and pop standards was sometimes distinguished by sheer lyricism, as when the elder Clayton used his bow to soulful effect on the Johnny Mandel ballad "Emily."

--MIKE JOYCE

By David Malitz |  May 4, 2009; 10:51 AM ET Live Last Night
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