WBGO Radar

Clayton-Hamilton Big Band: L.A. Treasures Project

Clayton-Hamilton Big Band: L.A. Treasures Project

The L.A. Treasures Project is a wish come true for the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which next year celebrates 30 years of swingin' in a big way!

Led by bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and saxophonist Jeff Clayton, this West Coast band has raised roofs around the world. 

With this project, the group set out to showcase and document their rehearsals with vocal legends Ernie Andrews and Barbara Morrison. As John Clayton said, "This is not going to be forever, unless we make it so."

This new CD preserves one of those "rehearsals," captured in front of a live audience, in the showroom of Alva's Dance Studio and Music Store in San Pedro, California.

John has written for Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, Jimmy Smith and Nancy Wilson. Five of the eight Grammy nominations John has received were for arrangements showing off the CHJO, considered one of jazz music's outstanding orchestras.

"I Love Being Here With You" is an appropriate opener, the band out of the gate, all cylinders firing, to reinstate their collective feeling of the event, and showing off the individual abilities of the bone section.

Next, Barbara Morrison takes her soulful, bluesy voice, giving the Dorothy Fields classic "Exactly Like You" some new clothes, dressed up by Lee Callet's baritone saxophone.

Ernie Andrews was a star of L.A.'s Central Avenue starting as a teenager. His rich vocal swagger makes Percy Mayfield's "The Jug and I" his own, surrounded by an outstanding CHJO orchestration.

Drummer Hamilton wrote "Hat's Dance" as a tribute to one of his mother's favorite grooves.  The band sets an infectious groove for the drummer an pianist Tamir Hendleman to work out.

"I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" gives Andrews another story to tell, his way, at his pace.

Barbara Morrison composed "Got To Get Back To L.A." Her chops and the lyric brings home the notion that she's where she belongs.

Jeff Clayton grabs his alto flute to work alongside brother John's bowed bass on Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat."

We get another look at the book of Percy Mayfield, and Morrison's take me to church rendition of "River's Invitation." Pass the hat after that one and it's full.

We've all felt friendships come and go. "Beautiful Friendship" makes Ernie Andrews' ability to take a lyric to the listener a hard swingin' fact.

The band gets a spot on turn for "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues". Guitarist Graham Dechter puts a blister on this one.

Ernie Andrews has the deep soul to mine all the feeling of a lyric. On "Time After Time", he captures it all on this Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne tale.

On "Fever", Barbara starts with low grade heat, taking the band and the chart to a temperature in need of a cold cloth by tune's end.

When the maximum on the dial is 10, this band takes to 11, as saxophonists Rickey Woodard and Charles Owens got at it, the perfect closer to his special evening.

With this record that comes out April 15 John Clayton gets his wish, an we listeners get the gift: an outstanding large ensemble taken to a special place with the spirited performances of two of today's most gifted singers.

  - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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