By J.D. Considine | Published July 2017
It should be no surprise that younger jazz musicians, like Gerald Clayton, Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper, have embraced ’70s jazz. Not only was the era’s jazz-funk one of hip- hop’s founding grooves, but the ’70s was the last time jazz musicians could be simultaneously conceptually ambitious, stylistically promiscuous and commercially successful.
But you don’t need to sound like a throwback to ride this wave; in fact, Clayton’s whole “tributary” concept hinges on the fluidity of time and the ways the past flows into the present. Here, echoes of the past churn beneath the surface—the Thelonious Monk-like chords that frame the melody in “Wakeful,” for example, or the overdriven keyboard (electric piano through a ring modulator?) that bobs up toward the end of “Unforeseen.”
Clayton clearly has put a lot of thought into the album, and as such the music demands close attention and a willingness to reflect. Some ideas are expressed entirely through sound, as when “Search For” illustrates its title through resolution-chasing interplay between Clayton and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, and lets the listener ponder what the overlaid barroom noise meant. Others are expressed verbally, through spoken-word dialogue backed by music.
Like the waterways it evokes, Tributary Tales is nourishing, refreshing and full of great depths. Prepare to be swept away.
Tributary Tales: Unforeseen; Patience Patients; Search For; A Light; Reach For; Envisionings; Reflect On; Lovers Reverie; Wakeful; Soul Stomp; Are We; Engage In; Squinted; Dimensions: Interwoven. (64:29)
Personnel: Gerald Clayton, piano, keyboards; Logan Richardson, alto saxophone; Ben Wendel, tenor saxophone, bassoon (8, 10); Dayna Stephens, baritone saxophone; Joe Sanders, bass; Justin Brown, drums; Aja Monet, Carl Hancock Rux, spoken word (8, 14); Sachal Vasandani, vocals (13); Henry Cole (1, 10, 12, 13), Gabriel Lugo (1, 10, 12–14), percussion.