Beautiful Love is a poignant duo date in which the exceptional talents of singer Jay Clayton and pianist Fred Hersch virtually redefine the genre
In a program of standards drawn from what Alec Wilder has simply and eloquently called “The American Popular Song,” the twosome’s ardent interplay is emotionally compelling and musically sublime.
In their hands, Cole Porter’s “So In Love” trembles with a lovelorn angst every bit as fragile and powerful and unsettling as that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
There’s also a lighter side where blithe spirits play. So when Jay and Fred tear off the “Day to Day” leaves of Sammy Cahn’s calendar, and Jay declaims that “There is no end to my devotion/it’s deeper than any ocean,” there’s a hyperbolic good cheer reminiscent of the mile-a-minute repartee of Hollywood’s classic 1930’s screwball comedies that bubbles with a knowing wink.
What separates this duo outing from most others is élan. There’s a spirit of collaboration, of synergetic interaction that defies both words and gravity. Significantly, there’s also a quality of creative, spontaneous risk-taking that surprises at each twist and turn. In other words, it’s a genuine jazz album.
The music is also accessible. Jay and Fred are superb musicians whose admirable craft is state-of-the-art. However, it is their seemingly effortless ability to fuse the familiar with the innovative that prompts us to pause and behold anew such gems as Oscar Levant’s “Blame It On My Youth,” Rodgers and Hart’s “My Heart Stood Still” and Don Raye and Gene DePaul’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is.”
- Dr. Chuck Berg (excerpt form the original liner notes from Sunnyside’s 1994 release)