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 Sunday, 29 November 2015
LA Beat: Melissa Morgan With the Gerald Clayton Trio at Steamers PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell (LA Jazz Scene)   
Sunday, 13 May 2007

Melissa Morgan with Gerald Clayton, Joe Sanders and Kevin Kanner Glenn Mitchell

A fresh new and invigorating young talent appeared at Steamers on April 11th. Her name is Melissa Morgan. She is a very competent vocalist with an ongoing ability to deliver her material (many tunes from the Great American Songbook) in a statuesque style, not to be equaled by some in quite a long while. She hails from New York City. Among her many studies and early career credits, in September 2004 she was named a semifinalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in Washington, DC. Judges of this event are major notable jazz luminaries.

Gerald Clayton’s trio was a marvelous backing for her wonderful show. He has steadily moved his productive career upwards and is now making his mark permanently in the jazz world. Of many accomplishments, he recently took second place in the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition. See his exciting website, one of the best I have seen: . Two strong sidemen rounded out the trio: Joe Sanders at the bass and Kevin Kanner on the drums.

Owner Terence Love usually does an announcement and introduction about the performers. Morgan had been highly recommended by several fellow musicians. One very good thing about Terence is that he has helped many performers get a start on moving their newer careers forward and will take a chance that many times pays off for everyone involved. This was one of those nights.

The Clayton Trio opened the show with a super smooth, enticing rendition of “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Clayton’s expert playing showed clearly with his live and expressive voicings on the piano, making him not only a markedly terrific pianist, but an exclusive arranger as well. Sanders proved his worth early on with a dynamite and flawless bass solo. Kanner’s drumming had many stellar moments in his four, eight or twelve-bar breaks throughout this gig, plus his fine accentuated rhythmic solos.

Melissa Morgan joined the band and began with a tune I wasn’t very familiar with, “My Gentlemen Friends,” but tasty nonetheless. She continued with “Cry Me a River.” Her voice expresses the moment and lyric perfectly. She sings directly to her audience with a laid back style, yet with thorough conviction. I saw her repertoire to run a wide gamut of songs, after studying several of her next selections: “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Manha De Carnival,” Vincent Youmans’ splendid “Sometimes I’m Happy,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “A Felicidade,” and longtime great standard, “The Nearness of

You.” Morgan’s enunciation was perfect, especially on “A Felicidade,” where bassist Sanders also did a phenomenal bass solo. In “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t,” I noticed how far-reaching Gerald Clayton’s style is in his inception and musical magic. A groovy Betty Carter original, “Tight,” brought the set to a close. The audience stayed in close and held their interest through all of this night’s performance.

Among some more splendid tunes for the second set were: “Sleeping Bee,” Harry Warren’s classic standard, “The More I See You,” and a highlight of the evening, “Save Your Love For Me” (Morgan, with all the emotion she portrayed, gave us a fantastic rendition!). “Teach Me Tonight,” “The Very Thought of You” (done with Clayton’s piano accompaniment and Morgan’s vocalizing only - quite captivating), and “What a Difference a Day Makes” completed the second set.

Kudos to Terence Love for bringing in all the fine jazz to Steamers and also to these excellent musicians, along with a wonderful find, Melissa Morgan. Everyone helped to make some jazzy memorabilia and some jazz history this evening.

This article is reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, May 2007.

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