Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Jazz Discovery: Jim Clayton - Songs My Daughter Knows

When it comes to jazz, I'm certainly no expert but I know what I like. And it's usually sax (Coltrane, Rollins) and piano (Tyner, Evans, Monk)... so when a new piano jazz record arrives in my inbox, I'm bound to give a listen. When a piano jazz record with a concept as charming as Songs My Daughter Knows, by Canadian pianist Jim Clayton, arrives, it'll get more than a cursory listen. And in this case, that's a good thing. This record is absolutely delightful. Clayton plays with great swing and joy - almost certainly the joy is due to the fun he must have had picking out the songs with his wife and input from their daughter, nascent tastemaker Eileen Agnes (Lenny) Clayton.

And the swing, whether wide like on "Grouch Anthem" and "Tea for Two",

or lighter as on "Rainbow Connection",

is excellent.

Clayton traveled to New Orleans to record the album and assembled a combo featuring drummer Jason Marsalis, percussionist Bill Summers, trumpeter Marlon Jordan and bassist Peter Harris. The rhythm section is uniformly excellent - the drums and piano work especially well together.

Clayton, in the information accompanying the record, describes the significance of several of these songs to him, his wife and 3-year old daughter: "Count Basie’s vibrant “'Flight of the Foo Birds'” (from 1958’s The Atomic Mr. Basie) served as the soundtrack for a montage of home movie footage ... of his daughter in various modes of play. “'Tea for Two'” served as a lullaby for his baby daughter while the jazz standard “'Autumn Leaves”' was a tune played in the recovery room after Lenny'’s birth. The opening drum cadence from the main theme to Aaron Sorkin’'s acclaimed TV series The West Wing was another musical tidbit that caught Lenny'’s ear, as was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band'’s rendition of the Cannonball Adderley tune '“Inside Straight'."

The kid has great taste in music, and her dad sure can play. If you like piano jazz, give this a listen.

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