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Clayton Brothers: Brother to Brother

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On their sixth album, 2005’s Back in the Swing of Things, bassist John Clayton and his alto-playing younger brother Jeff turned to nearly all original compositions after giving over most of their previous recordings to standards.

With Brother to Brother, the seventh disc of their 33-year career as a team (issued on the fan-funded ArtistShare label), they split the difference, writing half the tunes on a project originally intended to pay tribute to other brother outfits like Cannonball and Nat Adderley, and Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones. Some of that intention remains, particularly on a lively arrangement of Nat Adderley’s “Jive Samba” and on John Clayton’s original, “Still More Work,” an extrapolation on Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” (which the Claytons covered on their 2000 album Siblingity). Other brother-band nods include the opener, “Wild Man,” Jeff Clayton’s celebration of Elvin Jones (which provides plenty of solo space for him and trumpeter Terell Stafford), and the Latin-rhythm closer “The Jones Brothers,” which finds pianist Gerald Clayton (John’s son) playing like Hank Jones and drummer Obed Calvaire impersonating Elvin.

But the nominal theme is largely abandoned midway through for three showcases for John Clayton, the bassist: A cover of Kenny Burrell’s “Bass Face”; Keter Betts’ “Walking Bass,” originally written for Ray Brown and drolly sung by John Clayton; and the sensitive arco playing on the ballad “Where Is Love?” from the musical Oliver!, which is in effect a father-and-son duet with John and Gerald. These tracks may not have much to do with brotherhood, but they are well performed and give the album variety.