David Clayton-Thomas – “Combo” Studio Blog
Full disclosure here – I’ve been conscripted to contribute some musical and studio-themed blog posts about the studio as well as stories about the greater musical community to the Number Nine website, but I also wear another hat, that of Music Director for Radio That Doesn’t Suck or RTDS.ca, and it’s that hat that had me think of this topic for my almost-weekly blog post.
I’ve loved the expressiveness and timbre of David Clayton-Thomas’ voice since I first heard it on the legendary 1050 CHUM AM radio in Toronto with his former band Blood, Sweat & Tears. And it didn’t hurt that DCT was a Willowdale boy, growing up a street or two away from my childhood home, and supposedly riding motorcycles with my Dad and Phil R…we’ll let David validate that one. How could you not be hooked on that voice from the first listen of “Spinning Wheel”, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, “Lucretia McEvil”, “And When I Die”, and of course “God Bless The Child”. Bold, brassy and very full bodied! “God Bless The Child” is of special importance here, as DCT has just recorded and released a new, jazzier version on his latest disc, “Combo”, recorded right here at Number Nine Audio Group in Toronto.
Many might remember that DCT lived and worked in New York for many years, but a few years back decided to come back home to Toronto, to both work and live. Many of us in the musical community were excited that DCT was back and eager to do some great things at home again, and we couldn’t wait to see what he did. I personally saw him live at The Sound Academy in 2013 and he blew the audience away with some incredible versions of BST classics, as well as some great stories of his musical past.
One of the things David was planning was a musical look back at his roots, the very music he grew up singing and first performed with groups like David Clayton-Thomas & The Shays in the jazz clubs of Toronto in the 60’s. And this disc called “Combo” has just been released to showcase this love of his roots, with a stripped down sound vastly different from BST, yet hypnotic and very appropriate for the song selection and arrangements, recorded live with all the players in the same room just like some of the songs he chose for the disc would have been originally. Songs were learned with everyone gathered around the piano, charted out then immediately recorded to capture the spontaneity and intimacy of the material.
Produced by sometime-Shuffle Demon and first-call Toronto jazz sideman George Koller along with DCT, their deft and sparse production touch lends an intimacy to the work featured here, and the engineering of Bernie Cisternas gives it a clarity without sacrificing that vintage vibe. I can envision a smokey, dimly lit nightclub with DCT and the band onstage, and in the audience Tony Bennett takes a corner table, whispers and smiles at Billie Holiday and waves at Nat King Cole; Vince Guaraldi makes an appearance, and Charlie Chaplin blends in at the back to see what DCT does with his song “Smile”. Mark Kieswetter takes command of the massive Bechstein 9’ grand piano to do most of the harmonic heavy lifting as well as chiming in on Hammond B3; Ted Quinlan’s guitar fret work reminds me of a jam session between Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis and Pat Metheny; George Koller’s bottom end bass string work anchors the songs and suits the material to a “t”; Ben Riley keeps time and swings without ever getting in the way of the proceedings; Colleen Allen’s reed work sits beautifully on top and reminds us gently that DCT wrote some of those great BST charts; and last but not least the sometimes-silky, sometimes-brassy always expressive voice of David, evoking great memories of legendary performers and creating some great new memories.
Featured guests include Jackie Richardson on a slinky cover of “Freedom For The Stallion”, also featuring Colina Philips and Sharon Lee Williams; and Genevieve Marentette on “The Glory Of Love”.
It’s so comforting that a musical icon you’ve followed and enjoyed for many years continues to deliver the musical goods, and hopefully will for a long time…I know DCT’s fanbase will enjoy this one, as well as perhaps expose a few new people to the voice…THAT voice. If DCT were a baseball player he would have hit a grand slam with this “Combo”…
Here’s the ‘Behind The Scenes’ video shot at Number 9:
To find out more about DCT, visit http://davidclaytonthomas.com/ or click the image below:
And don’t forget, starting August 9th Number 9 are offering 15% off studio time ( minimum 8 hour block or more; 10% off a 5 hour block or more) and 10% off all other services from August 9th to September 9th 2015. Number 9’s rates are already incredibly reasonable for the world class sound they produce, with the best new and vintage equipment available (and a mic locker that other studios would drool over – hey, did we mention that other studios RENT our mics? Yeah!) and the beautiful C.Bechstein 9′ concert grand, not to mention one of the finest recording engineers this side of NYC.