Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Gerald Clayton: To the Bopcave

Gerald Clayton

During his 10-night residency at the Umbria Jazz Festival in the picturesque medieval hill town of Perugia, Italy, pianist Gerald Clayton created a buzz during his nightly set in the Rocca Paolina. An intimate space housed in the catacombs of a 16th-century stone fortress, the Rocca Paolina was affectionately dubbed “the cave” by fellow musicians who showed up at the popular late-night hang. Word spread from day one about this impressive young cat who conveyed a kind of poise and sophistication that belied his 24 years.

And while the long dreadlocks piled high on his head may have suggested some kind of cutting-edge reggae-meets-hip-hop jazz sensibility, Clayton’s refined touch, beautiful sense of dynamics and natural ease with swinging is steeped in a classy old-school tradition of jazz as practiced by the likes of Oscar Peterson, Erroll Garner, Hank Jones and other keyboard elders. And yet, with his highly interactive trio of fellow youngbloods Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums, Clayton did indulge at times in a postmodern deconstructivist aesthetic, as on stretched-out renditions of Chick Corea’s “Tones for Joan’s Bones” and Monk’s “Evidence,” while maintaining a stronghold on the swing factor during his engaging sets at the cave. For one memorable encore, Clayton performed a solo gospel medley of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Gotta Travel On,” the title track of a 1966 Ray Bryant album that has a prime spot in Clayton’s iPod.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published