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Gerald Clayton Trio 

When: Thu., May 23, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., May 24, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., May 25, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., May 26, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2013
Price: $20-$45
Pianist Gerald Clayton has recorded every one of his three albums since moving from his native Los Angeles to New York seven years ago, and in that brief time his music has undergone a dramatic transformation from brisk and lively post-Oscar Peterson postbop to burnished, thoroughly contemporary jazz that borrows rhythmic ideas from hip-hop and dices them up with staggering technique. He pushes even further on his latest album, Life Forum (Concord Jazz), beefing up his core trio of bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown with three horn players (trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephenson) and two vocalists, Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani, who add refined wordless singing. Clayton’s dense, translucent arrangements frequently function as set pieces for his improvisations, even when the horns and voices stick to composed material, and he incorporates a pop-soul influence similar to what you’ll hear on records by Parlato and Robert Glasper. Clayton composed all the music, and he often revels in its lush, complex harmonies while the horns and singers move in elegant counterpoint against the core trio’s fleet movements—on the hard-driving “Some Always,” for instance, he and Akinmusire play an extended passage in precise unison over a churning, frenetic groove. When it’s just the core trio, as on the skittering “Sir Third,” the borderline telepathic rapport Clayton has developed with the band comes to the fore, especially when he and Brown navigate rapid-fire tangles of rhythmic displacements or trade phrases so quickly your ears barely have time to process the exchanges. I’d love to hear the full ensemble play this music, but the trio is so sharp that these new pieces will survive the transition just fine. —Peter Margasak


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