Contemporary Jazz

Life Of Jazz Traditions


At the age of 28, Netherlands-born, Los Angeles-raised, NYC-based pianist Gerald Clayton is proudly carrying on the jazz traditions of the famous family he grew up in, making his Concord Jazz debut with Life Forum, which he says may be his “most ambitious album yet.”

Though being the son of Grammy Award-winning double bassist John Clayton and the nephew of renowned saxman/flutist Jeff Clayton may have come with certain expectations, the multi-talented composer and performer never felt his dad “cracking the whip” to stick with one style or another as he developed his own voice. Clayton, the second prize winner of the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Piano Competition, has won three Grammys since releasing his 2009 debut Two Shades.

On Life Forum, he continues to work with his core trio (bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Justin Brown) but expands his musical palette to accommodate a powerful ensemble of eight musicians, including saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani and poet Carl Hancock Rux.

Rux’s spoken word performance throughout the moody opening track “A Life Forum” includes a string of phrases which capture the spiritual and musical mission of the project: “This is the map, old paths to new dangers, a place for passion reserved, for brief touches, for remembering love diminished, for freedom…” Highlights include the fiery, percussive “Future Reflection” -- a showcase for Clayton’s playful interaction with his horn section -- and “When An Angel Sheds A Feather,” a dreamy closing reflection performed as a duet (with Clayton’s piano) by Parlato and Vasandani.