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05/20/14

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
The L.A. Treasures Project
Capri Records

Closing in on its 30th anniversary, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra continues its commitment to straight-off-the-bone swing. The CHJO’s new live recording, The L.A. Treasures Project, is an ebullient collection of tracks, the band taking a set of razor-sharp arrangements from bassist-conductor John Clayton out for a spin.

Recorded last September at Alvas music store in San Pedro, L.A. Treasures is partly a showcase for two of Los Angeles’ most venerated vocal talents. Barbara Morrison sets the house ablaze with her own rager of a compositional tribute to her adopted hometown, “Got to Get Back to L.A.,” and unfurls a more delicate touch with a mellow take on Percy Mayfield’s “River’s Invitation,” featuring playful accompaniment from pianist Tamir Hendelman. Ernie Andrews distills the blues to its essence on Mayfield’s “The Jug and I,” and proves an adept crooner on the Cahn/Styne chestnut “Time After Time,” backed by sensitive strains from Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty.

The instrumentals burst with energy, with airtight horn parts. Guitarist Graham Dechter suggests a more learned B.B. King on “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues,” and “Hat’s Dance,” composed by Hendelman and co-leader Jeff Hamilton, stands as another album highlight. On the Mingus classic “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” co-leader Jeff Clayton’s heartbreaking alto flute, joined with a moody bowed-bass duet from John Clayton and Luty, give this legendary lament appropriate weight and purpose.

The L.A. Treasures Project is a stirring snapshot of one of current jazz’s most vital large ensembles, and a fitting presentation of two evergreen vocal giants of the Los Angeles scene.

Originally published in May 2014
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