Gerald Clayton: Two-Shade

The title of this recording implies a dissolving duality; a single, new color emerging when two are blended. Indeed, Gerald Clayton’s debut as a leader, following stints with Lewis Nash, Al Foster, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove, among others, reflects the importance he places on honoring tradition while finding his own voice and direction. The 25-year-old, L.A.-raised, NYC-based Clayton draws on the legacies of revered piano precursors while looking to other genres, carving his own path within the Clayton family-he is the son of bassist John Clayton and nephew of saxophonist Jeff Clayton-and among his peers.

Originally released through the fan-funded ArtistShare and picked up by Emarcy, the set consists mainly of Clayton’s original compositions, as well as Cole Porter’s “All of You” (which earned Clayton a Grammy nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo) and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma.” The funk-driven “Boogablues” opens with exuberant energy, establishing the superb rhythmic support and creative input that Joe Sanders (bass) and Justin Brown (drums)-both rising stars on the New York scene-offer throughout. The haunting, balladlike feel on “Peace for the Moment,” underscored by Sanders’ bow, gradually builds in momentum as the tune oscillates between a sense of fervor and quiet contemplation.

Intermittent group vocals enhance the ethereal quality of “Casiotone Pothole” (named after an old Casiotone keyboard with a missing key), while the uptempo, bebop-infused “Scrimmage” showcases the trio’s cohesion as a unit. The tender, lyrical “Sunny Day Go” illustrates the storytelling quality of Clayton’s compositions and the emotive quality of his playing, his rapport with Sanders taking center stage. As on other tracks, Brown unleashes his thunderous intensity on the brief interlude “You’re Out.”

Dexterity and technique matched by high-spirited creativity make this a fine first effort for Clayton, whose journey promises to be an interesting one to watch.

Sharonne Cohen

Sharonne Cohen is a Montreal-based writer and editor. A music journalist since 2001, with a Master’s degree (and ABD PhD) in English, her work has appeared in publications including JazzTimes, DownBeat, OkayPlayer, VICE/Noisey, Afropop Worldwide, The Revivalist and La Scena Musicale, often accompanied by her photos of the artists.