Pianist Clay Giberson has a fifteen year resume of fine recordings on Seattle's Origin Records label. The discs are, for the most part, solo and trio outings, with the trio sets appearing under his own name or that of his long-standing Upper Left Trio. Some examples: Spaceton's Approach, (2008), and Minga Minga (2015) as Clay Giberson; and Sell Your Soul Side, (2006), and Ulternative, (2012), with the Upper Left Trio.
With Pastures, the pianist goes the quartet mode, bringing in three New York-based all-stars and, on three tracks, a string quartet, to craft his most gregarious - and his best - outing to date.
On the pianistic extrovert/introvert scale, with, Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner on the extrovert side, and Bill Evans or Marc Copland practicing a more introverted form of the art, Giberson would be ranked close to the middle, with a lean in the Evans/Copland direction. Until now. The gregarious and expansive Pastures is inspired by the Americana approach of bassist Charlie Haden, saxophonist Michael Brecker and free jazz giant Ornette Coleman, and highly inspired it is. Opening with the Giberson-penned "The Time For Now," the group - with saxophonist Donny McCaslin blowing bold out front - sounds like the team from McCoy Tyner's classic Infinity (Impulse! Records, 1995), on which saxophonist Brecker made one brash statement after another. With bassist Drew Gress and drummer Matt Wilson rounding out the Pastures quartet, and with Giberson sounding particularly vivacious and daring, the music is elevated to the highest level.
"Solfeggio," written by C.P.E. Bach, explores the classical world with a jazz frame of mind, with a sunny, light-stepping delivery. On "Simple Gifts," Giberson employes a string quartet, which brings the atmosphere of the Charlie Haden/Michael Brecker outing, American Dreams (Verve Records, 2002) to mind. Here, and on "Long Ago And Far Away" (Kern/Gerhswin), the strings enhance and accent the quartet sound with subtle sweetening. On "Infinitity X," a Giberson tune - and (for these ears) the disc's highlight - the two quartets, strings and jazz, slice out a modernistic groove, with McCaslin soaring on the soprano sax before the strings wind things down in a soothing lullaby.
Pastures is Clay Giberson's highly engaging mix of his dynamic original compositions and a handful of well-chosen and distinctively rendered covers, laid down by an enlivened top-notch quartet. Scintillating sounds, from start to finish.