Pianist Gerald Clayton has released his debut recording with Concord Jazz, Life Forum. This 12-song set combines Clayton’s highly skilled trio members, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown with saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani and poet Carl Hancock Rux complete the ensemble.
As Clayton states, “From everyone’s high level of musicality, open ears, creativity and love for one another has emerged a product that is so much more than the sum of its parts.” He adds, “This record is about gathering my favorite musicians and giving them the best platform to explore and openly express themselves. I take the same concepts and values that lead to creative expression as a credo to live by, hence Life Forum.”
Clayton considers Life Forum possibly his most ambitious album to date, which is no small claim considering the artistic and commercial success of Two Shade, his Grammy-nominated 2009 debut album, followed by the equally acclaimed 2011 – also Grammy-nominated – Bond: The Paris Sessions (he received a third nomination in 2012 for his composition, Battle Circle, written for The Clayton Brothers).
“I am writing more now than I have ever done before,” he says. “Working with a larger ensemble for this album meant a great deal of preparation. Ben Wendel, who produced the record, was extremely helpful. I really admire his playing and his writing, so I knew I would value his musical feedback. He and I got together prior to the sessions to talk in detail about the music and map out exactly what needed to happen and at what time during the recording session. Organizationally, and in terms of the writing involved, creating this album was much more demanding than my previous records.”
Born in the Netherlands in 1984 and raised in Southern California, Clayton took his first piano lessons before age seven with the full support and encouragement of his father, the acclaimed jazz bassist, composer and bandleader, John Clayton. Music was a central part of his life from as long as he can remember and it became a lifetime commitment very early on:
“I was in the third grade, and there was a talent show where I played a boogie-woogie piece that my dad had written for me,” he recalls. “It was the first time that I played for an audience where I felt that people were really moved by something that I had just played. I remember thinking, ‘Yep, this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.”
Clayton attended the L.A. County High School for the Arts and then enrolled at the USC Thornton School of Music. In the midst of his third year at USC, he temporarily relocated to New York to study at the Manhattan School of Music. “I knew I was eventually going to move to New York,” he says, “so I thought it would be a good idea to experience the city for a year as a student.” After returning to L.A. for a year and a half to finish his degree, he moved back to New York permanently.
For more information, please visit: http://geraldclayton.com/