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Gerald Clayton Releases His Blue Note Debut, ‘Happening: Live At The Village Vanguard’

The record features four of Clayton’s original compositions, as well as Duke Ellington’s “Take The Coltrane”.

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Pianist Gerald Clayton has released his Blue Note Records debut Happening: Live At The Village Vanguard, which was recorded at the legendary NYC jazz club with a quintet of long-time collaborators—Logan Richardson on alto saxophone, Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, Joe Sanders on bass, and Marcus Gilmore on drums.

The quintet co-navigates four of Clayton’s original compositions, as well as Duke Ellington’s “Take The Coltrane,” while trio takes of Bud Powell’s “Celia” and the standard “Body and Soul” cast a mood that lingers long after the record ends.

Critic Nate Chinen of WBGO called Happening “compelling and urgent,” and the album earned multiple 4-star rave reviews in the DownBeat HotBox with John Murph writing “this thoroughly enthralling album finds Clayton at a new creative height as a stunning pianist, gifted composer and burgeoning bandleader.” DownBeat reviewer Suzanne Lorge wrote “Clayton’s concertizing demands rapt attention and the suspension of expectation. What emerges from a close listen is an appreciation for the nuanced harmonizations, lucid phrasings and rich silences that he conjures. Equal parts magic and mastery.”

“I called it Happening to highlight the fact that this music is living, that we have a whole lot of happenings throughout the year, and performances at the Village Vanguard are some of the most special of those happenings,” says Clayton. “It’s such a special, sacred place for the music. You really can feel the presence of what’s occurred in the room.”

To Gerald Clayton, the album’s poised impact has shifted in light of the global pandemic. “The idea of having a recording of a live concert takes on a new meaning now that we’re unable to actually gather anymore” he says. “I would hope that, when we do return to some kind of normalcy, people are more inspired than ever to recognize that this music is happening, that it’s a living art form. We need to actually go to those shows. We need to be in those rooms and be part of that experience. I hope this album can offer people a little bit of an escape from this isolation, that it transports them back to the time when we were all able to congregate and celebrate our shared love.”

Happening: Live At The Village Vanguard is out now and can be bought here.

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