World Premiere: Gerald Clayton & The Assembly featuring René Marie • 'Piedmont Blues'
Gerald Clayton “has proved himself one of the standout jazz pianists of his generation, possessed of silvery technique and an intent but relaxed way with a phrase” (The New York Times). This young jazz master grew up playing with his father John Clayton and uncle Jeff Clayton in their Clayton Brothers combo. He’s since forged his own path, leading his eponymous multi-GRAMMY-nominated trio and holding down the piano chair in Charles Lloyd’s quartet.
Duke Performances has commissioned Clayton to make Piedmont Blues, a sprawling live concert tribute to the Piedmont blues — a musical style defined by ragtime rhythms, fingerpicking guitar, and understated vocals twinned with searing lyrics — that grew up around the tobacco warehouses of Durham in the 1920s and ‘30s, when the Bull City was the largest cigarette manufacturer in the world. Though the most famous exponents of the Piedmont blues — Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, and Etta Baker — have passed, a few musicians still keep the tradition alive. Clayton and his collaborator, theater director Christopher McElroen, have made a half-dozen research visits to Durham to learn from and work alongside these musical elders in preparation for this major new show.
This live concert presentation features Clayton’s Piedmont blues-inspired compositions written for The Assembly, a top-tier nine-piece jazz ensemble featuring the GRAMMY-nominated singer and Piedmont native René Marie, who has been called "masterful" by DownBeat and "hip and swinging" by The Wall Street Journal. Entwined with the music is an assemblage of projected film, new and archival photography, and Southern folklore underscoring the verdant cultural landscape of the Piedmont region. Don’t miss the world premiere of this essentially Durham project.
Conceived & composed by Gerald Clayton
Directed by Christopher McElroen
Piedmont Blues personnel:
Gerald Clayton, piano; René Marie, vocals; Logan Richardson, alto sax; Tivon Pennicott, tenor sax; Dayna Stephens, baritone sax; Alan Hampton, guitar; Joe Sanders, bass; Kendrick Scott, drums; Maurice Chestnut, tap dancer & the Union Baptist Gospel Choir, Ray Watkins, musical director
Duke Performances | Duke University is the lead commissioner of Piedmont Blues; co-commissioners include the Modlin Center for the Arts at University of Richmond, the Savannah Music Festival & Strathmore.
Critical support for Piedmont Blues has been provided by the Music Maker Relief Foundation — a nonprofit based in Hillsborough, NC — founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting musicians, ensuring that their voices will not be silenced by poverty & time. www.musicmaker.org
Made possible, in part, with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; a grant from the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources; and a grant from New Music USA.
Yamaha CFX concert grand piano provided courtesy of Yamaha Artist Services, New York, in association with Ruggero Piano in Raleigh, NC.
A note on casting: Due to unforeseen circumstances, singer Lizz Wright has withdrawn from Piedmont Blues. We are delighted that Piedmont-born-and-raised, GRAMMY-nominated jazz singer René Marie has been able to join the production.