Gerald Clayton

Tributary Tales

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.

On Sale Now
December 2023
Pharoah Sanders
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