Released today on Blue Note Records, “Bells On Sand” is the second album of pianist Gerald Clayton to be released on the label. It focuses on the abstractions and impact of time. Most of the tracks were recorded by Gerald who is playing piano, Rhodes, vibes, and organ, his father John on bass, and drummer Justin Brown. Special guests are Portuguese singer MARO on two tracks (she is set to represent Portugal in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest), and his mentor Charles Lloyd on sax on one track.
I think “Bells On Sand” is Gerald’s most profound, well-rounded, and intimate record to date. There is a lot of timeless beauty and meditative power right from the start of the record which begins with a bowed bass, supporting the overall elegiac mood of the track “Water’s Edge”. This very first piece will heal your soul already. It is so fitting to continue with a duo version of the short “Elegia”, written by Spanish composer and pianist Federico Dencausse Mompou, Spanish writer Jose Olive Janes, and Spanish violinist and composer Xavier Creixell Turull. The first two also wrote the melancholic “Damunt de tu Només les Flors”, one of two tracks with 27-year old singer MARO (Mariana Brito da Cruz Forjaz Secca). She represents another generation here on this record – her beautiful voice and style, sometimes veering towards a whisper, with a heavy dose of saudade, was already heard on Jacob Collier’s “Djesse Vol. 2” album.
Gerald also includes two piano solos. Both deal with interpretations of the standard “My Ideal”. Whereas “My Ideal 1” is a pretty straight-forward affair, showing Gerald’s prowess on the piano and his many ideas of dealing with the melody, the second version offers a more balladic approach with a short Chick Corea-styled intro. It almost turns into chamber music in the second half. Another beauty. There is a much too short Rhodes-induced “That Roy”, dedicated to Mister Hargrove who left us much too soon. It’s a foray into neo-soul territory, deeply infectious. After a haunting piano, vibes and drums trip on “Rip”, singer MARO is back for the wonderful “Just A Dream”. There is hope for this year’s Eurovision with a brilliant artist like her. This piece, written by Gerald, exudes so much warmth and comfort. It is a meditation.
We get a change in sound, but not in overall mood and atmosphere, with the inclusion of saxophone meister Charles Lloyd on the duo track “Peace Invocation”, where Mister Lloyd both shows his ability and versatility of leaving notes out, and at the same time of passionately crying out for something much greater. Gerald leaves us with another piano solo: on the hymn-like “This Is Music Where You’re Going My Friends”, written by his uncle Jeff Clayton, we are assured that all is not lost. What a scintillatingly witty album. And it’s out on vinyl too!