Fred Hersch / Jay Clayton

Beautiful Love

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Jay Clayton has been a leader in applying avant-garde, creative modern techniques to the art of jazz vocal. She has been successful in this commendable objective ever since her first album as a solist in 1980, where a 25-year-old Jane Ira Bloom was a major partner. Although working with a play list of classic standards, except for Wayne Shorter's jazz standard "Footprints," Clayton has by no means set aside her modern jazz vocal leanings. Joined by Fred Hersch a pianist with like perspectives, they work in tandem to present this familiar music in an offbeat non-familiar way. This is not to say that lovely melody lines are lost among cacophonies of grunts, groans, and other extra terrestrial events. The lyrical lines are there, but the tempo, the phrasing, the emphasis has been rearranged so the light of these tunes is refracted through a prism rather than through a window of ordinary glass. Full fledged avant-garde comes, as one would expect, on Shorter's "Footprints," where Clayton engages in wordless vocalizing reminiscent of the vocal part in Hector Villa-Lobas "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5," with Hersch doing a marvelous job replacing the cellos as the voice accompaniment. This is seven minutes of remarkable virtuosity. "Regular" standards, such as "Blame It on My Youth," are treated with respect as Clayton plays little games with the melody line and chordal structure and inserts wordless vocalizing here and there. "Beautiful Love" is introduced slowly by Clayton a cappella before moving into a medium lilting tempo. Not much here ever gets beyond that pace. This album is thoughtful and is for those who want to hear the full measure of a song, with nothing skipped, casually dismissed, or unknowingly overlooked. Highly recommended.

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