on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2022 15 Sep

Gerald Clayton – Bells on Sand (and live solo piano concert)

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments


At 38, jazz pianist Gerald Clayton has been on the scene for a while and has already staked out his musical turf for what promises to be long and productive career. He is probably best known for his work with Charles Lloyd, who guests on this album. Clayton’s father, John Clayton is on bass and Justin Brown is on drums. A very breathy vocal stylist  MARO guests on a couple of beguiling tracks. All in all, Bells on Sand is a very intimate affair and really shows off a lot of Clayton’s many musical talents and facets.

I saw him perform solo last night at the 222 in Healdsburg CA. Also an art gallery, The 222 is a relatively new venue, having started of as an occasional stage for events relating to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. 

Last night, surrounded by beautiful artwork, Clayton opened with a jazz waltz I know but couldn’t place the title for the life of me. He played just the most recognizable A section, and then veered off into modal improvisations that were quite stunning. He followed that with an abstract, Debussy-like version of Spring is Here, then a more traditional reading of Like Someone in Love. He also captured the wistful yet cautiously optimistic vibe of Monk’s Mood, evincing a deep understanding of Monk’s harmonic vocabulary without a hint of facile imitation. The reinvented standards were interspersed with some enticing originals and extemporaneous playing; the show was peppered with groove oriented ostinatos, soulful gospel tunes and even some American roots music. He ended one improvisation with Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train. He closed the show with a gorgeous reading of Martin Rojas’s En la Orilla del Mundo (At the Edge of the World,) the opening track on Charlie Haden’s essential Nocturne album. His reading was obviously inspired by Gonsalvo Rubalcaba’s fine contributions to that classic. 

Clayton is a resourceful pianist. Using the piano as an orchestra, he thinks like a composer/arranger and is sometimes all over the keyboard, adding in little counter lines or flourishes in the upper registers while keeping everything going in the bass and mid range of the instrument. Clayton has an extremely refined touch; it would seem his classical background serves him well. While he is also a beautiful line player, clearly his is a very pianistic musical vision. He plays as if he’s in love with the sound of the instrument, and it shows in his singing tone, extraordinarily wide dynamic range and ability to elicit myriad colors out of the instrument.

All of this is apparent on the new album, his second for Blue Note. The album features a duo with piano and bowed bass, duos with Charles Lloyd (that duo is coming to the 222 soon, a Bay Area exclusive,) trios and solo piano as well. It’s an intimate recording and one that I will be coming back to frequently. I just love Clayton’s concept, a tasteful blend of traditional and modern styles that seem to borrow from almost everything. His solo performance some   Nights ago belied an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the history of jazz piano and beyond to classical, gospel and American folk traditions. Listening to him, the first word that came to mind was “elegant”, the way Ellington was an elegant player, although in an entirely different and original way. Incidentally, Gerald Clayton is also a killer B3 player.


This entry was posted on Donnerstag, 15. September 2022 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Welcome back!

    Great piano albums a returning theme here on the blog. Don‘t know this one. One of the year‘s favourites of mine: Nuna, by David Virelles. And, forthcoming, Wolfert Brederode with string quatet and percussion. Ingo was there during the production, in Bremen. You know Ingo by now, small world.

    The cover seems more suitable for a psychedelic album, Gomg‘s Shamal springs to mind. For an album like this, bold choice.

  2. Brian Whistler:

    It is a weird cover for a Blue Note release. I also really love the new Fred Hersch/Enrico Rava duo album. Always thought Hersch was perfect for ECM. I hope that collaboration with ECM continues. Seems like a good match. I also really like the Hersch album with string quartet. Breath by Breath. 3rd stream music of the highest order.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    How could i forget the Rava / Hersch duo, yeah, excellent. I just wrote to a friend in Leinfelden: No. 31 on m year‘s list at the moment, a classic 4 star album. And Rava only plays Fluegelhorn:) … never too mellow …

    And there is another stunning discovery: Mal Waldron solo from 1986.

  4. HDK:

    noch für wenige tage zum nachhören angeboten:

    DLF – Ein Porträt des Pianisten Gerald Clayton
    Karsten Mützelfeldt | 15. September 2022

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