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January/February 2009

Jay Clayton
The Peace of Wild Things
Sunnyside

Ohio’s sexagenarian jazz dynamo (the “Jay” actually stands for Judith, and her surname was switched from Colantone when she married percussionist Frank Clayton) has helped shaped the careers of dozens of vocalists. In fact, it’s often easier to find her students’ recordings than it is to locate Clayton’s own albums. When one surfaces, it is invariably cause not just for celebration but also very, very careful listening.

Clayton’s work is designed expressly for the adventurous of jazz spirit (Bobby McFerrin fans are surely first in line), and her brilliantly outré The Peace of Wild Things is certainly no exception. Clayton concocts a cunning elixir of etherealness and diamond-sharp, linen-crisp clarity as she shapes angular tone poems and then, like beds of rose petals and thorns, slides them beneath the poetry of e.e. cummings, Wendell Berry and her own, haiku-like lyrics.

With profound assistance from wordsmith Lara Pellegrinelli, she honors her dear friend (and frequent teaching colleague) Sheila Jordan on “Sheila’s Dream,” and pays tribute to the late, great Jeanne Lee by closing with the hypnotic journey that is Lee’s “No Words, Only a Feeling.” Those daring enough to venture through Clayton’s looking glass are guaranteed to emerge shaken, stirred and mightily satisfied.

Originally published in January/February 2009
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