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Jeff Clayton Quartet: Combination Pays Off at Loa

Jeff Clayton, whose quartet opened Thursday at the Loa in Santa Monica, first attracted attention in this room as a member of the Gene Harris All Star Band. That, however, was a fleeting glimpse of a protean and promising talent.

Clayton strolled onto the bandstand carrying what looked like enough equipment to facilitate a change of horns on every tune. Starting conventionally with a blues on tenor sax, he switched to alto for two numbers that benefited from off-the-beaten-path arrangements: First in “A Foggy Day” and again in “On the Trail,” a repeated figure was used as a device for introduction, bridges between solos and closing routine. Clayton’s horn surged and soared over a rhythm section that managed, despite John Boudreaux’s sometimes stiff drumming, to sustain an energetic pace.

“Braz-Real,” a Clayton original, was an attractive Latin vehicle for his alto flute. Still another instrument, the soprano sax, provided the basis for his requiem, “Sad About Thad,” com1886352229worked when Jones was leading the Count Basie orchestra.

A too-deliberately abstract version of “Night in Tunisia” showed that Clayton is not Ornette Coleman, nor does he need to be, any more than his young pianist, Mike Cane, has to jump into a Cecil Taylor bag. Cane’s own solo version of “Stella by Starlight” revealed his considerable promise as he invested the 40-year-old song with fresh harmonic concepts.

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Larry Gales on bass, using his bow for the solos, rounded out the ground, supplying a strong beat for the concluding “Battle Hymn” which Clayton could well have retitled “John Brown’s Blue Funk,” with the leader in a stompingly self-assured groove. Like his brother John, the well established bassist, Jeff Clayton displays a considerable measure of ability and personality, a combination that seems likely to pay off. The quartet closes Sunday.


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