There are relationships that always remain fruitful. Maybe it is because the discourse never lags or there is unflagging affection. Vocalist Jay Clayton and percussionist Jerry Granelli have been making music together for forty years and their musical connection continues to surprise as their affinity deepens.
Their new recording, Alone Together, shows how the spark of creativity has only brightened over the duo's long affiliation. Separately, the two have had remarkable and eclectic careers. Clayton came up as a jazz singer, only to be recruited into the modern classical worlds of Steve Reich and John Cage before becoming one of the great vocal improvisers in any genre. Granelli was a first call drummer in the Bay Area, playing regularly with piano greats Vince Guaraldi, Mose Allison, Denny Zeitlin and the guitar wizard Ralph Towner.
Clayton and Granelli's relationship stemmed from a recommendation of the great percussionist Collin Walcott. Granelli was running the summer music program at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, an important Buddhist institution where many important voices in creative arts and music came together. Walcott suggested that Granelli invite Clayton to their workshop in 1979. Upon arriving, and having never met Granelli before, Clayton was asked to perform an improvised concert with Walcott and Granelli in a local planetarium. The rapport between Clayton and Granelli was immediate and deep. Clayton return to Naropa each of the following three summers. Then when Granelli relocated from the Bay Area to Seattle to teach at Cornish College, he invited Clayton to join the faculty.
The two really began to develop their language in Seattle. Meeting regularly in Granelli's basement rehearsal space, the improvisers made a core sound that would drive many future projects, including their group Quartett, featuring trombonist Julian Priester and bassist Gary Peacock. But it was their connection that was the heart of these endeavors. They were true musical soul mates. Their first foray into recording was a duo recording entitled Sound Songs that was released in 1986 on JMT Records from Germany. Apart from Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," the entire album was improvised, showcasing the captivating talents of these two masters as they created new music together.
Thirty years later, Clayton and Granelli have revisited the integral duo setting they perfected so long ago. They reconvened along with engineer Darren Von Niekerk at the Sonic Temple Studio in Halifax, Nova Scotia for three hours in July 2014. The music was later mixed and edited by longtime friend Sascha Von Oertzen.
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