Alexander Claffy, “Michelle,” from Standards: What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
Ascending bassist Alexander Claffy takes an all-encompassing approach to jazz standards, befitting that famous maxim by Dizzy Gillespie: “As a musician, you have to have to keep one foot back in the past and have one foot forward into the future.” The young bassist clearly has an ear for timeless melodies — regardless of genre or era — and he engages with them with originality and unbridled creativity on his sophomore album, Standards: What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (SMK Jazz) Composers covered on this disc range from Cole Porter and Michel Legrand to McCoy Tyner and Wayne Shorter. Claffy, a gifted arranger, treats these compositions with the reverence they deserve, yet remains keenly aware of the musical possibilities they inspire.
Take the arrangement of “Michelle,” by the Beatles. It’s rendered here in darker, more nuanced shades. Though the melody is largely intact, it feels entirely new against Claffy’s backdrop of minor harmonies and fractured rhythms. The album is full of similar musical timewarps, including the cross-generational structure of its lineup, which features veterans David Kikoski (piano), Joel Frahm (saxophone) and Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar) alongside a rotation of promising young artists in Benny Benack III (trumpet), Veronica Swift (vocals) and Adam Arruda, Aaron Kimmel and Mark Whitfield Jr. (drums).
Feature photo courtesy the artist.