Big band music with a few vocal
highlights. That’s the essence of The L.A. Treasures Project by
the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (Capri Records, 2014).
Led by John Clayton, Jeff Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, this ensemble keeps
the hits coming. The trumpets are Bijon Watson, Gilbert Castellanos,
James Ford, Brian Swartz and Jamie Hovorka. The trombones are Isa Nepus,
George Bohanon, Ryan Porter and Maurice Spears. The saxes and woodwinds
are Jeff Clayton, Keith Fiddmont, Rickey Woodard, Charles Owens and Lee
Callet. The rest of the band are Jeff Hamilton, drums; Tamir Hendelman,
piano; Christoph Luty, bass; Graham Dechter, guitar; and John Clayton,
Early in 2013, vocalists Barbara Morrison and Ernie Andrews were asked
to sing during a few rehearsals. That led to a September 15th
performance at in the showroom of Alvas Music Store in San Pedro,
California, with a live audience. Morrison and Andrew lead four songs
The set opens with the swinging “I Love Being Here with You.” All four
trombonists deliver spirited solos in this brassy, finger-snapping tune.
The trumpets and saxophones get their chops in as well.
“Got to Get Back to L.A.” features Morrison. Accented by the horns,
Morrison brings passion and sass, advising the listener to get out of
her way. The full orchestra is engaged during the middle break,
punctuated by Jeff Hamilton’s tom rolls. Morrison is even more emphatic
when she resumes, setting up the song’s dazzling finale.
Andrews takes point on the standard, “Beautiful Friendship.” Though the
orchestra is mostly featured in its entirety, there are a few moments
when individuals shine. Hendelman’s solo is one such highlight. Andrews
sings of a pair who’ve known each other as sister and brother but then,
as fate would have it, they looked at each other and fell in love.
Though he sings it’s the end of friendship, there’s clearly no regret as
he celebrates the transformation into romance.
The orchestra performs five tracks without vocals, shining the spotlight
on some of the individuals, including Dechter, Jeff Clayton, Hamilton,
Luty, Woodard and Owens.
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra has been thrilling audiences for
three decades. The L.A. Treasures Project reiterates the
group’s place as one of today’s engaging, invigorating ensembles.