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Life Forum

Gerald Clayton

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Album Review

Pianist Gerald Clayton's third studio album, 2013's Life Forum, follows up his acclaimed 2011 release, Bond: The Paris Sessions. Whereas last time Clayton focused primarily on a trio sound, on Life Forum he expands his musical palette by arranging for a larger ensemble. Joining Clayton here are a handful of like minded musicians including trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens, vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Justin Brown. All of these musicians have made their mark playing adventurous, forward-thinking jazz that, while not necessarily pop-oriented, exists well beyond the traditional standards-oriented approach of most straight-ahead jazz. In keeping with this genre-defying approach, Clayton pushes the boundaries of modern jazz on Life Forum, exploring ever more expansive ways to play improvised music. This includes everything from a spoken word piece with writer Carl Hancock Rux set against a ruminative and layered harmonic arrangement, to a deceptively simple sounding instrumental compositions that walk the line between exploratory modal jazz, soulful contemporary R&B, and sprawling yet melodic folk music. Clayton even delves into several cinematic, introspective songs that include lyric-less vocal passages featuring Parlato's haunting vocal lines. Although the album works as a showcase for Clayton's larger group aesthetic — there are plenty of stand-out improvisational moments from each musician here — it is still Clayton, with his deft, nuanced piano chops, extensive, motivic improvisation, and broad, evocative compositional skills who stays in the spotlight.

Customer Reviews

Life Forum is the groove

Looking through a high school yearbook is an act of remembrance. An opportunity to reflect on funny haircuts and the size of shirt collars, a yearbook preserves difference and change through time.

For jazz music, the measurement of difference is the groove. After acquiring enough technical proficiency the major voices of each generation set out in search of the groove. It is their job to design the space and character of the groove. Like photos in a high school yearbook the groove is memorialized as being the sound of an era.

Gerald Clayton through his daring piano work has not only distinguished himself as one of the dominant voices of this generation, though this recording he has assured his place in the yearbook of Jazz music.

To be sure, Life Forum is a statement record. From this recording, styles will be emulated, grooves will be duplicated. With its own defined voice for others will draw inspiration Life Forum is tree which will bear fruit for It has a

Old Dude, Here

Mr. Glover's review is interesting and perhaps he's right. Trying to make odd time signatures swing seems to be the mode du jour as we all wait for the next Trane to arrive. Me, I find this disc so overly-ambitious that even the rare straight time cuts don't swing. Sort of shocking, given his family tree. Clearly, lots of care and consideration went into this date and I'm not against Grand Statements but just not enough viscerality for my taste.


Born: May 11, 1984 in Utrecht, Netherlands

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Jazz pianist Gerald Clayton is an adept improviser and composer with a bent toward post-bop and straight-ahead jazz. The son of bassist/bandleader John Clayton, Gerald was born in the Netherlands but grew up in California. Interested in music from a young age, Clayton began studying piano at age seven and eventually graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, after which he earned a music degree from the USC Thornton School of Music. In 2006, Clayton took second place in the prestigious...
Full Bio
Life Forum, Gerald Clayton
View In iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Apr 02, 2013

Customer Ratings

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