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Home & Away with Gerald Cleaver

Avant-garde, swing & everything in between

Gerald Cleaver at Trout Recording in Brooklyn, 2012. Photo courtesy of Northern Spy Records.

“I know it’s wacked to say this about someone playing now, someone of your own generation, but I think Gerald Cleaver is one of the greatest drummers in jazz history.” This is the view of Matthew Shipp, a fine pianist not known for a great caution with words. If other colleagues don’t state it so boldly, their admiration for Cleaver is just as deep and genuine. They know, as many listeners do, that the story of jazz and improvised music in the last 15 years would not be the same without the artistry of this 50-year-old Detroit native.

“[Guitarist] Joe Morris and I like to joke that you could have a band playing and you could take Gerald and drop him through the roof and he would come right in [playing the right thing], even if he didn’t know the people or the band,” Shipp remarks. “I’ve seen him be himself in so many different situations. He never ceases to amaze me with the beauty of his sound.”

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