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Brother To Brother by The Clayton Brothers

Jeff and John Clayton, who have performed so often together in the past in numerous circumstances, now have recorded their first album on the innovative ArtistShare label, on which their recording activities have been followed throughout the production process by the participants funding and supporting the endeavor. Now that John Clayton’s son Gerald has joined them on the project, it has become even more of a family affair than past reordings. Indeed, the Claytons have received inspiration for the CD from other jazz families, most notably two of them: the Adderleys and the Joneses. One could wonder why the Marsalises or the Heaths didn’t receive tribute as well, until one hears the similarity of the Claytons’ sound to that of the Adderleys’, especially with the addition of trumpeter Terell Stafford to the mix. The intensity of Jeff Clayton’s alto sax work on "Still More Work," an alteration of the "Work Song," certainly offers provides its own brand of excitement, as did Cannonball's and Stafford’s exhilarating force throughout his own solo recalls and give-and-take between the Adderleys. Young Gerald, who lately has been working with Roy Hargrove’s group, provides a crashing, propulsive solo of his own, and following in his father’s footsteps, arranged "Jive Samba" with his own ideas about harmonization and stretching a melody, while providing opportunity for father John to establish a recurrent vamp reinforcing his own.

What better way to honor the Jones brothers than to entitle Jeff’s new composition just that: "The Jones Brothers"? Combining the melodic approach of Thad, the elegance of Hank and the percussive power of Elvin, the piece changes rhythms throughout as it portrays each of the brothers, its three against four feel ever present. Allowing jaw-dropping solos for each of the musicians throughout the course of the tune’s almost eight minutes, "The Jones Brothers" ends with drummer and John Clayton protégé Obed Calvaire’s rolling, thunderous work over which the Claytons and Stafford end with surprisingly gospel-influenced two-note softness. Specifically, "Wild Man" depicts Elvin Jones with a ever-shifting panorama of rhythms that no doubt kept Calvaire keenly challenged and still provided some special horn-led moments like Jeff and Terell’s low- to mid-register trill and the resulting upsweep of pitch until the final exclamation and Stafford’s unrelenting power throughout his solo.

However, Brother to Brother includes some of the Claytons’ favorites, not to mention adding some un-Adderley-like variety, as they digress from the family theme, or as they stretch it to include, for example, Kenny Burrell’s or Monty Alexander’s brother. Wisely, the Claytons include one of their most requested songs, the hilarious "Walking Bass" written by respected and missed bassist Keter Betts and narrated with loads of rhyming, narrative humor by John Clayton. And then John reminds us how fine a bassist he is when he bows "Where Is Love," only to be followed by Jeff’s eloquent, dynamically affecting interpretation. Even without its themes of family and jazz brotherhood, Brother to Brother stands on its own as an outstanding recording of top-shelf, like-minded matured and maturing jazz musicians.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The Clayton Brothers
  • CD Title: Brother To Brother
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: ArtistShare
  • Tracks: Wild Man, Still More Work, Jive Samba, Big Daddy Adderleys, Bass Face, Walking Bass, Where Is Love, The Jones Brothers
  • Musicians: Jeff Clayton, alto saxophone; John Clayton, bass; Terell Stafford, trumpet, flugelhorn; Gerald Clayton, piano; Obed Calvaire, drums
  • Rating: Five Stars
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