Brian Claxton is one of the Colorado music scene’s most treasured side-men. He is the bassist for Greeley’s sweaty-soul band The Burroughs and one of the guitarists, drummers and shenanigan-conductors of the quirky power-trio known as Trash Cat.
He wears many musical hats, but his debut solo album When I Get Home (out today) makes this very clear: He is first and foremost a jazz drummer. Claxton doesn’t prove this point with Keith Moon-like drum solos, rather preferring to draw the listener in with his clear sense of groove.
In the opening track “The Yard,” Claxton keeps his playing in the foreground with an aggressive approach that carries the band, but he doesn’t need an up-tempo tune to retain that energy. A laid back composition like “Apple of My Eye” still has a heavy sense of time – quarter notes have never swung so hard.
Claxton chose the direction of the album, both in selecting swing drummer Jeff Hamilton to produce it and by writing all the tunes himself. His compositional voice has a classic jazz sound, reminiscent of artists from the hard-bop era of jazz like Art Blakey and Charles Mingus, and along with aggressive grooves, he also incorporates blues and gospel textures in tunes like “New Kicks” and “Talk Soon.”
Brian Claxton emerges as a premier jazz artist in When I Get Home. His drumming is tight, his players are fantastic (Tamir Hendelman, Graham Dechter, Jon Hamar) and his melodies are catchy and fun. He sheds his other, outer layers – the ones he displays in Trash Cat or the Burroughs – to present who he really is: A fun, grooving swing drummer. Lovers of jazz, soul and quirk-pop will appreciate Claxton bringing his musicianship from the side into the spotlight: a place where he clearly feels at home.