A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo by Ben Wolf

The pianist Gerald Clayton has a “gift for reconciling the backward glance with the forward stare” (The New York Times). He’s known not only for his “huge, authoritative presence, …Oscar Peterson-like style, highly controlled touch and dynamics and rhapsodic, episodic soloing,” but also for “restraint and concision”; a recent performance revealed “the work of someone interested in the clearest articulation of an idea.”

Gerald has a mantra: “Tradition and innovation can peacefully coexist.” The son of the acclaimed bassist John Clayton was reared in Los Angeles, and has studied with or performed alongside a veritable history of the innovators on his instrument: Hank Jones, Billy Childs, Kenny Barron, Benny Green, Mulgrew Miller. The panel of the 2006 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, in which Gerald took second place, included Herbie HancockAndrew Hill, Danilo Perez, Renee Rosnes, Billy Taylor and Randy Weston. Gatekeepers of jazz tradition such as Clark Terry, Lewis Nash, Roy Hargrove, and Al Foster have employed the young pianist in their own groups. Through his own trio with the bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown, as well as in the groups of Ambrose Akinmusire, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick ScottChris Dingman, and many others, Gerald uses these experiences as shoulders to stand on, reaching for the future.

Gerald has released two albums, both GRAMMY nominated, and both featuring the trio: 2009’s Two-Shade (Artist Share & Decca / Emarcy) and 2011’s Bond: The Paris Sessions (Emarcy / Decca). In addition to his second place finish in the Monk Competition, Gerald has also been hailed as a Rising Star in the jazz piano category of the DownBeat Critics’ Poll. His work has been performed by the BBC Orchestra, and by his own groups on stages around the globe.

Gerald has been performing on our stage for years now, and we commissioned him to write “Themes in Travel” as a part of our 2007-2008 Composers’ Series. This Friday and Saturday, we welcome him back for a series of special duo concerts, featuring intimate exchanges with longtime collaborators including the saxophonist Dayna Stephens, the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, and the drummer Justin Brown, as well as special guests.

Watch a video about the making of Bond: The Paris Sessions.

Update: If you needed further convincing, Gerald’s run has been selected as a Critics’ Pick by The New York Times and Time Out New York.