Gerald Clayton to make Blue Note debut with live album

Jazz pianist Gerald Clayton’s first album with Blue Note Records is called Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard, and it’s set to be released on July 10.

It’ll be the fifth album in total for the four-time Grammy nominee, and his first since the 2017 recording Tributary Tales.

Captured at the legendary New York jazz club, Clayton is joined by a quintet of longtime collaborators: Logan Richardson on alto saxophone, Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, Joe Sanders on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums.

Happening features four of Clayton’s original compositions, including Rejuvenation Agendawhich Blue Note has made available for streaming ahead of the album’s release.

The album also features the quintet’s performance of Duke Ellington’s Take the Coltrane as well as trio takes of Bud Powell’s Celia and the jazz standard Body and Soul.

“I think the live setting is the most honest testament to what it is we do all year round,” Clayton says. “I called it Happening to highlight the fact that this music is living, that we have a whole lot of happenings throughout the year, and performances at the Village Vanguard are some of the most special of those happenings. It’s such a special, sacred place for the music. You really can feel the presence of what’s occurred in the room.”

For Clayton, the album and its title have taken on new meaning amid the world’s current public-health situation.

“The idea of having a recording of a live concert takes on a new meaning now that we’re unable to actually gather anymore,” he says. “I would hope that, when we do return to some kind of normalcy, people are more inspired than ever to recognize that this music is happening, that it’s a living art form. We need to actually go to those shows. We need to be in those rooms and be part of that experience. I hope this album can offer people a little bit of an escape from this isolation, that it transports them back to the time when we were all able to congregate and celebrate our shared love.”

The 39-year-old earned his first Grammy nomination in 2009 for his solo on an arrangement of Cole Porter’s All of You. The next year, he earned a nod for best instrumental composition for the Clayton Brothers recording Battle Circle. In 2011 and 2013, he was nominated for best instrumental jazz album for Bond: The Paris Sessions and Life Forum, respectively.

In addition to his work as a leader, Clayton has recorded as a sideman to Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, John Scofield, Kendrick Scott, Terri Lyne Carrington and more.