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Circle Dancing

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Album Review

Her latest album finds Jay Clayton again in the company of avant-garde jazz players Jim Knapp, Phil Sparks, and Aaron Alexander, with whom she worked and recorded when they were known as the Knapp Collective. Unlike her earlier Sunnyside release with Fred Hersch, the exact reverse is true here, where there are all unfamiliar entries except one, Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye." Clayton possesses a great talent for presenting her material in ways that are quite different from the beaten path with a wide spectrum of styles represented on each of her albums. This is no exception here. "Ebony" evokes a variety of settings, including Native American, as there are chanting murmurs over the lyrics — not dubbed, but through the use of digital delay. "I Think of You" is a medium tempo, straight-ahead jazz piece with the music based on a theme from Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto. No. 2" merged with a haunting tale of love imbedded in the words of Don Marcotte and John Elliot. Her own "Sometimes" combines lyrics sung with recited poetry accompanied by the laments of the furies. Clayton further extends the boundaries of song on such cuts as on a fantasy "Circle Dancing," which features Knapp's off-center, progressive trumpet and Randy Halberstadt's whirling piano. Phil Sparks gets a chance on "Wild West" to demonstrate that the bass, whether it be pizzicato or arco, and it need not take a backseat to any instrument in modern music maneuvering. Clayton's vocalizing here moves between long lines and staccato tongue slapping. With some wild Clayton vocalese tossed in, this is one of the more frenzied pieces on the set. This album must have kept the performers on their toes with all of the twists and turns and it certainly will the listener. Recommended.


Born: 28 October 1941 in Youngstown, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Jay Clayton is both a very significant singer in the jazz avant-garde and a highly influential educator. Clayton learned standards very early from hearing her mother sing around their house. She took private piano lessons from a young age and studied at the St. Louis Institute for Music for a short time. She graduated from Miami University in Oxford, OH in 1963 with a degree in Music Education. Although she studied classical music at school, Clayton sang jazz on the weekends at local clubs. After...
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Circle Dancing, Jay Clayton
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