I’m serious. Rarely have I had a CD that made me so earnestly want to turn up the volume and dance around the kitchen — with the Beloved or solo. It’s amazing music.
I shall stop dancing (even metaphorically) and explain. CLAYTONIA is the first disc issued by the UK-based Buck Clayton Legacy Band.
When I was a young jazz record collector, I sought out every record Buck played on, and I don’t remember ever being disappointed. His Columbia JAM SESSIONS are (to me) among the most gratifying musical experiences ever put on record. By the time I began to see jazz performances live, Buck had stopped playing — although I saw him once in a “comeback” concert tribute to Billie. But he was resilient, and channeled his energies into writing, arranging, and directing a small big band for the rest of his life — a wonderful unit in which some of my friends and heroes played.
There the story might have ended if it hadn’t been for the very special British writer, string bassist, and jazz broadcaster Alyn Shipton. You might know Alyn in any of his roles, but I first encountered him as someone helping Buck finish and expand BUCK CLAYTON’S JAZZ WORLD — a very rewarding book, Buck’s candid and charming autobiography, written with Nancy Miller Elliott. In his notes, Alyn recalls, “Just after Buck died in 1991, Nancy Miller Elliott contacted me, and handed over a box of his music, with a message from Buck saying, ‘You kept my memory alive with the book, maybe you can do the same with my music?’”
In 2004 Alyn and the brilliant reedman / arranger / composer Matthias Seuffert assembled this great band, and CLAYTONIA was recorded during their first British tour in 2011.
It’s a humming band — these fellows know deep in their souls how to swing, and the easeful yet intense performances tick along like well-tuned engines, hinting at great strength but never relying on volume to get their point across. Alyn and Matthias (tenor saxophone, clarinet, arrangements) are co-leaders; Norman Emberson, drums; Martin Wheatley, acoustic guitar; Martin Litton, piano, make up a splendid rhythm section — nothing artificial, nothing self-consciously “old school,” just hitting on all cylinders with sweet style. There are no efforts to imitate anyone: they simply Rock. And Wheatley’s single-string solos are delicious interludes . . . rather like finding a clump of ripe blackberries on your morning walk. The rest of the band is equally stellar: soloists who have something to say but know how to say it concisely / great supportive ensemble players: Menno Daams and Ian Smith, trumpet; Adrian Fry, trombone; Alan Barnes, alto saxophone, clarinet.
CLAYTONIA has none of the “all-star” nature of some recorded gatherings, where you feel the impatience of Soloist 4 while Soloist 3 is playing. This, dearly beloved children of all ages, sounds like a working band — and is there anything better?
And they play Buck’s compositions — which have a built-in momentum: OUTER DRIVE (memorable from the SONGS FOR SWINGERS album and 1961 live performances); I’LL MAKE BELIEVE (a priceless rhythm ballad); PARTY TIME; HORN OF PLENTY; SCORPIO; CLAYTONIA (a gritty blues, first recorded by Buck and friends for Vanguard); SMOOTHIE; SIR HUMPHREY (for Buck’s dear friend and trumpet colleague Humph).
And the sound is great, too — recorded at The Sage Gateshead by Hywel Jones for BBC 3.
May your happiness increase!