Clay Giberson

Upper Road

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AllMusic Review by

All of the tools of the smooth or contemporary jazz fashion are here on Clay Giberson's second album for the Origin label. There's the Rhodes, the synthesizer, and, of course, the soprano sax. What sets this CD apart from many albums of the same category is that the music, all Giberson originals, often has more character, adventure, and daring than usually heard from practitioners of this genre. It's more than simply stream-of-consciousness drivel that lays there without any dynamic intervention. On "Homegrown," Hans Teuber's also sax expresses the pretty melody with Giberson's Fender maneuvering along underneath. Of course, there's the constant, unchanging backbeat of Robert Di Pietro's drums, but this is offset by the funky statement by Giberson. For an exotic-sounding "For the Time Coming," Giberson wheels out all the smooth jazz paraphernalia -- wurlitzer, synthesizer, and Hammond B3 organ -- to create tension which is slowly and beguilingly expanded, then relieved by the vocal of Sanni Orasmaa. Giberson's various low-pitched instruments set a solemn Dan Balmer's guitar and the Teuber soprano sax. And perhaps solemn may be the most appropriate overall descriptor of this album. There is not much brightness here, a state rarely found on smooth jazz offerings. The closest to bright comes with "Biscayne Bay," which is enlivened by the trumpet of Matt Hilgenberg and a getting-close-to-swinging alto of Teuber working over synthesizer-created strings by Giberson. Despite the efforts of Giberson and his talented cohorts, this album will likely be attractive, and very attractive at that, just to aficionados of the contemporary jazz format.