Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard is mostly an energetic, if not cerebral post-Bop set, with occasional relief from the frenzy, in quiet and wistful moments on tracks like Body and Soul and the pianist-composer's own Envisionings.

"As I always say, you've got to know where you come from in order to get where you want to go, and you can tell from his playing that he knows exactly where he is going!!"

Two exclamation marks, preceded by such a plaudit from Quincy Jones, no less, means your knowing where you want to go is a known known surely, rather than a known unknown. Quincy is lining up the gifted pianist Gerald Clayton - four Grammy nominations -  with a vaunted company whose music rang through venues such as the Village Vanguard in New York decades ago.

Let Quincy take it from there.  "Man, Miles and I used to go there to see Shirley Horn and Thad Jones! The legacies of those who set the benchmark are undoubtedly still present in the room today, and paved the way for present-day talents who now occupy the Vanguard stage." The legendary producer is fulsome with praise on the liner note for these present-day cats - and, yes he knew Gerald Clayton’s father, John, who was one of his orchestration students.

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36-year-old Clayton has shared stages with Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, John Scofield, Dianne Reeves, Ambrose Akinmusire, Avishai Cohen.The pianist/composer formally began his musical journey at the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where he received the 2002 Presidential Scholar of the Arts Award. He duly completed a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance at USC's Thornton School of Music under the instruction of Billy Childs.

This followed a year of intensive study with NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron at The Manhattan School of Music. Clayton won second place in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition.

On this live set, we get an invigorating, post-Bop set, with occasional pastoral breaks, as on Clayton's own composition, Envisonings, which begins with beautiful, lyrical stuff from the pianist. There follows the endearing reading of the Green/Heyman/Sour classic, Body and Soul. Clayton’s numinous piano likes to act sometimes as though it were coming from a different head-space, but that's kind of fanciful talk. It's all about contrast, pushing towards all kinds of corners, and taking things dramatically down every so often.

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The pianist is joined by Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, Logan Richardson on tenor, Joe Sanders on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. This is post-Bop from the wildest of frontiers, Monk and Mingus the overarching genii. 

The outfit played for six nights at the Vanguard in April 2019 and this is the invigorating result, a scrapple in the Apple of horn interplay between Smith III and Richardson and driving, improvisational piano from Clayton, or, as we said, some welcome quiet passages.

Last few words to the pianist himself. "Music at its most magical is experiential. Sound and space in passing moments. It is as life is. It is living. It is happening." Right on.