CD Reviews
Drummer Cafe 20th Anniversary
  • Subscribe
Pin it
{glossarbot=disable} Clayton Cameron & the Jass eXplosion - Here's To The Messengers

When bebop innovator / drummer Max Roach met Clayton Cameron, aka the Brush Master, he commented, "Clayton is a genius!" Miles Davis, after watching him with Sammy Davis Jr., told him, "you a bad MF$%&#", (that's a Miles term of endearment). Clayton Cameron stands on the proverbial shoulders of those musicians who have left their indelible footprints on jazz. Simply put, he studied the masters like Roach, and was influenced by leaders like Miles. In 1990, he produced his ground breaking video, "The Living Art of Brushes", and revived interest in this jazz art form in which he is a master and innovator. You have heard his unique approach most notably on Tony Bennett's Grammy winning 'Steppin' Out and Unplugged CDs. To go along with that distinction, he won 15 Grammys with Mr. Bennett, including Album of The Year. Now Clayton's musical signature can be found on his own long awaited CD, Here's To The Messengers, a tribute to hard bop drumming legend Art Blakey.

The first track, "A La Mode", is a la Blakey - sets the tone with drive and swing followed by an up tempo original called "Art Full" featuring fluid solos from tenor man Tivon Pennicott and pianist John Beasley with a Brush Master solo closing it out. A downright funky "What Do You Say Dr. J?" leads into a waltz treatment of "Autumn Leaves." "The End of Our Winter", a ballad original, showcases Bob Sheppard and Billy Childs in a somber tribute to Blakey. With a groove so strong "So Tired" makes you feel like anything but. "We For Blakey", a blues shuffle, romps so hard you just want to sing and dance, and singing the praises of Art Blakey's bopitude is the title track, "Here's to the Messengers." The last track "ETA" is certainly not least. This up tempo flag waver features a battle between the horns and great conversation between Darek Oles bass solo and the swingin' brushes on the drums.

My first time ever in NYC was in 1982 when I was performing with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bill Cosby at the Gershwin Theater. At the end of our show I walked off the stage and was greeted in the wings by none other than Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, aka Art Blakey. "Come over here, I heard you up there you little African." This was said to me while he extended his powerful arms and proceeded to give me a bear hug. I could not believe I was meeting one of my heroes, the architect of hard bop drumming. From the early forties with the Billy Eckstine's Big Band, to the beginnings of the Jazz Messengers with Horace Silver, until his last famous press roll, Art Blakey always had drive. With such a unique sound documented on thousands of tracks, I found it overwhelming to even scratch the surface of his contribution to music. So I took a deep breath and picked a few compositions that were written by some Jazz Messenger luminaries, chose one that he recorded with Miles and Cannonball, and then wrote tunes with inspiration from all the above. Hope you enjoy.

— Clayton Cameron

REVIEW

Here's To The Messengers: A Tribute to Art Blakey is the latest CD release from brush-master, Clayton Cameron, and the Jass eXplosion. This album features today's giants of jazz, including pianists Billy Childs and John Beasley, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, and of course, drummer/composer, Clayton Cameron. This CD is a fitting tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

The first track, "A La Mode," firmly establishes the Blakey/Messenger sound but also lets the listener quickly know that Mr. Cameron means business — he's far more than just a "brush master" — he's a swing-monster regardless of the apparatus he might be wielding at the time, and in the case of this tune, it's drumsticks. Cameron also demonstrates his drum solo prowess very early on, soloing a full two times through the form of the tune, lasting close to 2-minutes.

"Art Full" is a brisk, up-tempo original tune by Cameron, featuring his world-renown brush technique along with some tasty solo breaks throughout. "What Do You Say Dr. J" is a smooth half-time shuffle ... something I wasn't expecting style wise, but it sits quite nicely within the tribute. The jazz waltz rendition of the jazz standard "Autumn Leaves," traditionally played in 4/4, occupies track 4 with Cameron stretching out a bit towards then end. Another Cameron original, "The End Of Our Winter," is a jazz ballad that treats us drummers with a nice blend a drumstick on the Ride cymbal and a brush on the Snare drum as Clayton comps. "So Tired" is an upbeat tune in AABA form with a quasi-funk-rhumba groove in the A section, modulating to a straight-ahead swing in the B.

"We For Blakey," the third Cameron original, is a med-tempo, 12-bar blues shuffle with a catchy head and joyful vibe; one of my favorite tracks.The fourth and final Cameron original, "Here's To The Messengers," is the CD's title track. Clayton's swinging time-keeping is on top, propelling and pushing the band forward, including the bass; nice. "ETA" is an up-tempo swing tune that takes the listener on a high-spirited journey where everyone in the band takes a ride. As tradition, Clayton switches to brushes during the bass solo ... but stays with the brushes as he blazes a 2-½ minute fiery snare drum solo with Tom Tom and Bass drum exclamations interjected with surgical precision.

To fans of Clayton Cameron, seasoned musicians and aspiring jazz drummers, I highly recommend Here's To The Messengers. If you dig Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, this CD will most definitely not disappoint.