The Gerald Clayton Trio played to the largest Harker Concert Series audience yet on Jan. 20, a fine night for an indoor show, given the rainy weather. Middle school music teacher Dave Hart introduced Clayton, 27, a three-time Grammy award nominee who has worked with greats such Roy Hargrove, Lewis Nash and Clark Terry. Joining him on drums was Justin Brown, a graduate of the Dave Brubeck Institute and Juilliard, attending both on full scholarships. On bass was Matt Brewer, a professional performer since the age of 12 and a highly in-demand sideman, according to Clayton.
Appearing the very portrait of concentration, Clayton put hand to keys, performing a dissonant improvisation before segueing nicely into a slow and soft rendition of the standard “It Could Happen to You.” Brown used his brushes to great effect, adding an ethereal touch to his steady, nuanced technique. Both he and Brewer contributed the first of many tasteful solos that evening, while Clayton’s increasingly dexterous playing brought the song to an exciting finish.
Clayton followed up with “Major Hope,” an original composition that began with rapid staccato chords in shifting times, gradually swelling into an upbeat display of musicianship, featuring Clayton’s fluid improvisational skills and Brown’s exacting touch.
Clearly fond of standards, Clayton tossed the much-loved ballad “Blame it on My Youth” into his set, adding his own unique flourishes and syncopations. At one point, Clayton intimated to the audience that the band didn’t know what to play next. “Maybe that’s the genius of youth,” he remarked. “No plans.”
The trio’s version of “Body and Soul” was much appreciated by Bill and Cathy Fraser, both of them first-time attendees of the Harker Concert Series.
“It was beyond my expectations,” Bill Fraser, a longtime jazz listener, said of the show. “Particularly the couple of ballads they played …. It’s just rare when a jazz trio settles down in that mood and gets it.”
Roger Kim ’07, who studied music at the University of California, Berkeley, was also impressed with the show. “I see a lot of jazz, and this definitely was a unique experience,” he said, mentioning that the Clayton concert was among the best he’d seen.
Winston Wey ’07, who played with Harker’s jazz band during his high school years, said he had recently rekindled his interest in music and that Clayton’s performance was an inspiration to him. “I’m really impressed with the caliber of performers they get here,” he said.