Jim Clayton's Muskoka is an extraordinary piece of art. To comment on the Muskoka experience is to predefine a context in which to discuss it. Read on if you dare: The experience of art is a creation process. It is birthed by its creator and then experienced by the same. Now, if the creation has multiple parents, then the sum of the creators will equal the total expressions of the art. In fact, all those that experience the creation, will recreate this piece of art, based on their perceptual abilities and inclinations. The net result is that art is a perceived experience and is created and recreated with each personal experience. To put it simply, good art, shares a new dimension of itself with each experience. In the context of this perception of art, we can begin to appreciate the gift that Jim Clayton has given to those of us who enjoy listening to well performed jazz. I can't get enough of this CD. Each time I hear Clayton's, Greenhouse, I experience a different aspect of the music and musicians. Sometimes the difference is in a note that I didn't hear before. On other occasions, it is the inspired interaction between the performing artists. Still other instances, it is the experience of a different mood. Each time, the experience has been good, "All Good".
This is one of the few CDs that I enjoy every selection on. To cut it short, is like trying to get up from dinner before the meal is over, or to put down the cold glass of water before quenching ones thirst. Not allowing Clayton's full musical story is uncomfortable. Patricia Wheeler plays the tenor and soprano saxophones on all of the pieces. It is her sound that sets the mood of each of the songs. Riding under and over the melodies that Patricia performs is the contemplative keyboarding of the composer, Jim Clayton. And then we have the smooth yet totally funky bottom of the bass player, Rich Levesque. Rich makes his instrument walk the scales in such a manner that it puts one in mind of the 'stand-up bass'. He does this without losing the lyrical electric personality of the instrument that it was designed to be. You don't believe me, listen to the funky ending of the cut, "Tom". You will hear stand-up bass rifts like you wouldn't believe. Yes, Mr. Levesque finds a way to transend the expectations of just a bottom keeping bass player. This guy can play. Listen to the intro of Somnia, but don't stop there. Listen to his solo in the same song. Imagine the movement of the fingers as they glide over the bass strings. This guy is silky smooth, pleasantly funky, and just plain old fantastic to listen to.
The compositions of Clayton put me in mind of the work of Miles Davis. Listen to "Muskoka". There is a keyboard solo that shows the play against pause interplay that I believe is Clayton's hallmark on Greenhouse. The Intro has an interplay between the keeper of the rhythm, drummer, Bryan Humphreys and Jim Clayton. Miles was superb at making empty space become a member of the band. Clayton doesn't have to have notes fill all of the space, all of the time. The interaction of the musicians and the timing of the interactions make the mood and the experience of the music something like a joyful meditation. It is this timing of Clayton's that adds another dimension to the "Greenhouse" experience. It is obvious that each musician is a virtuoso on their respective instruments. This fact jumps out at anyone that listens to the compositions. "When Giants Fall", this cut is incredible. Clayton shows his virtuosity in a modest solo where he shows his confidence of playing by using just the right amount of notes.
Though a contemporary jazz piece, I hear tributes to Coltrane, Miles, Dizzy and some of the other greats. So there you have it. Jim Clayton's "Green House" is a piece of art in the strictest definition of the word art. Every time one plays it, he is given the opportunity to have a totally different musical experience. He has shared with us a life's experience on one CD lasting a little over 45 minutes. He takes you from the experience of joy, to melancholy moods, to funky fun, and a lot more. To listen to Green House is to experience a song maker singing the universal message of emotions. And he does a Great job of it. Congratulations Clayton and company. Keep it coming. You don't want to disappoint your fans.