“There are many sides to the twenty-seven year old pianist Gerald Clayton. It was roughly seven years ago, when we first met under the most inconspicuous of circumstances. The venue was a modestly-sized living space on a college campus in Philadelphia. I, as eager spectator, and he, as accompanying performer, took our respective places for this comfortable listening session. As he contributed to one of R&B’s most overlooked artists, I failed to recognize his complimentary genius. The introduction of myself and Gerald Clayton took place on the opening track of Teedra Moses’ Complex Simplicity. But that introduction would not be are last soiree. Most recently, I had the opportunity to share another moment with the artist whose lineage stretches back beyond his own years. Stepping away from his earlier persona as an R&B melody maker, Clayton took his seat upon the pianist’s bench to lend his talents to one of my favorite releases of the year, Ambrose Akinmusire’sWhen The Heart Reemerges Glistening. Today, I sit again with my old friend as he embarks on another avenue of musical expression.
Bond: The Paris Sessions can be aptly described as a mixture of everything necessary to create the perfect jazz album. In one instance, Clayton is reawakening the collective memory banks of his audience using timeless standards from the canon of jazz with results so rich in vitality that they would seem as if imagined only yesterday. And in the very next moment, he chooses to present his own compositions, whose sophistication far outreaches his own short-lived existence in the world of music. But where Clayton truly excels is in his impeccable virtuosity. In many ways, technical brilliance is an intangible concept. Attempting to concretize something as abstract as art is considerably an exercise in futility. So when truly attempting to understand the giftedness of Clayton and most importantly his music, we can only go on how it makes us feel. And if nothing else, this project is full of emotion.
The album begins with the Frank Loesser classic, “If I Were A Bell.” From Miles Davis to Amel Larrieux, this song has been recorded by countless individuals and yet, Clayton’s interpretation leaves an indelible mark amongst the rest. Fitted in absolute reticence, the song begins as a solitary display of Clayton, whose bell-like posturing is befitting of the song’s namesake. Within this simplicity, a subdued temperament takes shape thematically. As the song moves forward, however, a semblance of the song’s traditionally light tone begins to be explored. But even in doing so, the ensemble maintains that same initial reservation, providing the song with a newfound anxiousness. There is no denying Clayton’s reverence of traditional jazz archetypes. And yet, this cover exemplifies the very real understanding that he refuses to be a slave to them…”
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For The Revivalist