Clayton Brothers: Siblingity

Ben Varkentine

Clayton Brothers


Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2000-08-08

Jazz travels.

It moves, both in the sense of changing place, and effecting emotion. A good jazz record, it seems to me, should take you to another place, even if it's only so long as you are listening to the record.

In clubs or concert halls, jazz is the music of motion, invention and emotion. You tap your feet and listen to voices -- the voice of a bass, the voice of a saxophone.

Jazz is flexible.

It curves and turns in whatever way it's players are inclined, and it builds variations on the ground broken by the greats. Good jazz contributes to the history and teaches in the modern day.

The above surfeit of hubris in aid of trying to codify my feelings about The Clayton Brothers Siblingity, an album I like very much, but find it hard to get excited about.

The brothers, bass-player John and reeds player Jeff, are musicians of the old school. Starting on their instruments before they were in their teens, they grew up to play with greats (together and separately) including Count Basie, Stevie Wonder, Milt Jackson, and Joe Williams before joining with drummer Jeff Hamilton and pianist Bill Cunliffe to form a quartet in 1997. Trumpet player Terell Stafford has been added for this recording.

Siblingity is by and large music that would not have sounded out of place at any time during the 50's and early 60's. Though mostly originals, some do include familiar compositions in part, as launching pads for the new work and tributes to their influences.

The lyrical "Entrez Vous" is a highlight, as is "You Bossa Nova Me," "That Night," with a classy bowed solo from John Clayton, "Save Yourself For Me" and "Heavy Drama" with percussive piano from Cunliffe.

The saxophone player Courtney Pine once said that jazz is only understandable in the context of it's own history. I don't know if that's true, but the Clayton Brothers are certainly playing smack dab in the middle of that context.

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