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Athenaeum Jazz led off their new concert series with a performance by the Gerald Clayton Quartet on April 3, at TSRI in La Jolla, featuring special guest tenor saxophonist Mark Turner alongside Joe Sanders on bass, Justin Brown on drums and the leader on piano.

Turner began the first tune purring softly through his horn while Clayton ruminated with winding classical-sounding undertones. Turner has a way of sneaking into the upper register without the accompanying drama, and the intensity of his line building is belied by the calmness of his approach. When Sanders and Brown entered, irregular bass accents and wicked ride cymbal pings helped Clayton's lyrical swing find fruition. Complex lines, often in octaves, seemed to cascade off of his fingertips, but always in service of the music. He never let his considerable chops overwhelm his ideas.

The Dizzy Gillespie standard, "Con Alma," received a transformation--with pastoral harmonies over suspended bass and shimmering cymbals while Turner floated dark ellipses that crowded into denser spirals before Clayton took the baton, ratcheting the tension with nervous repetition edging towards a complete commitment to a swing dynamic.

Sanders led off "Like Water," with a big, wood-grained soliloquy--keen to let each note breathe, the bassist's attention to detail was breathtaking. Brown was the perfect drummer for this group, dialing the dynamics up and down in all the right places and keeping irresistible time with sticks or brushes.

Photo by Bonnie Wright

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