Album review

Gerald Clayton – ‘Bells on Sand’

Gerald Clayton – Bells on Sand
(Blue Note B00349380. CD review by Mike Collins)

Gerald Clayton’s second release for Blue Note speaks quietly and thoughtfully. He includes the listener in intimate dialogues and luminous accounts of everything from the musical miniatures of Spanish composer Mompou, through an intensely grooving nu-jazz tribute to Roy Hargrove, to meditative, yearning duos with Portuguese singer MARO, and with mentor and collaborator Charles Lloyd.

Bells on Sand album cover

Perhaps taking his cue from the brevity of Mompou, most of the ten pieces are short (there’s a bonus eleventh track for digital editions); the opener Water’s Edge is one of the longer pieces. It begins with chiming chords, reminiscent of a dissonant version of Bill Evans’ Peace Piece, before singing arco bass from father John Clayton sculpts an affecting melody. Then, as with much of the album, the atmosphere evolves and develops in exchanges, on this tune with the pianist, bassist and drummer (Justin Brown).

On the grooving That Roy, drums and funky Rhodes sit on a riff and gradually develop it before fading out. Rip is built on a 4-note motif, moving around the keyboard, overlaid with vibes by Clayton and drums adding urgent clatter before they subside. 

The vocal tracks with MARO provide an unlikely, possibly unique link between Blue Note and Eurovision, the singer having written and performed Portugal’s entry for 2022. Her breathy, pure-toned delivery of the Mompou piece, Damunt de tu Només les Flors, and the Clayton original Just A Dream are haunting reflective moments, the latter evoking a rhapsodic episode from the pianist.

Two contrasting solo takes of My Ideal are glistening cameos. Peace Invocation, a duo with Charles Lloyd is like conversational meditation before the hymn-like trio number There Is Music Where You’re Going My Friends rounds things off.

Clayton’s debut for Blue Note was a live set from the Village Vanguard with a full blooded quintet. With Bells on Sand he gives full rein to another, more introspective dimension to his musical personality. The result is a beautiful, many layered collection.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter: @jazzyblogman 

LINK: Bells on Sand on Blue Note

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