2005 marks the 20th year anniversary of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra; taken from a May, 2004 concert at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, the release of the CD Live at MCG
is a part of the celebration of that landmark. The big-band includes among its number some of the most in-demand sidemen in jazz, not least of which are the group's co-leaders, brothers John (bass, conductor) and Jeff (saxophone) Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The nineteen-piece orchestra includes a multi-generational who's who of Los Angeles based musicians, from the octogenarian, former Count Basie and Tonight Show trumpeter Eugene "Snook" Young to the ensemble's fine, thirty-something pianist Tamir Hendelman. On this disc, the group performs eleven pieces, from traditional big-band fare such as Ellington's "Mood Indigo" to clever arrangements of songs usually associated with small groups, such as Monk's "Evidence."
Bop is generally thought to have been the musical force that ended the big band era, but the CHJO demonstrates that the two worlds needn't be incompatible with smart arrangements of pieces by Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt and Horace Silver, among others. The band plays well in tandem, and the individual players solo capably and appropriately, whether it is tenormen Ricky Woodard and Charles Owens blowing hot bebop on Stitt's "Eternal Triangle" or Snooky's patent muted trumpet followed by Jeff Clayton's slinky, Ravel-meets-Coltrane soprano sax on "Like A Lover."
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra will be performing a special 20th Anniversary concert on September 11, 2005 at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood. If you are going to the gig, Live At MCG will whet your appetite for it. If you can't make it, the CD offers a fine way to celebrate the occasion in absentia.