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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Graham Dechter
Article added on October 1, 2012 by “Beethoven” Jean-Michel Reisser

“Takin’ It There” is the second album of still young, but already great, rising star guitarist Graham Dechter (* Los Angeles, 1986). This new release has been long awaited by a lot of jazz fans around the world.

Following the big success of his first opus, “Right On Time”, recorded two years ago on Capri Records, Graham developed a very deep and strong musical relationship with his mentors, John Clayton,
Jeff Hamilton (sheet music) and Tamir Hendelman. “They are so great. We are a family. We know each other for a long time. Listeners, I hope, can hear that in our music and group”.

Graham’s mention “our music and group” is no trivial matter to him: “The four of us bring our personality and feeling into the group. I can come up with an idea, then Jeff has something new to add on it; then Tamir and I want to try it, and John hears everything and wants to play it with some different chords. Finally, every thing comes nicely together and fits perfectly”.

I’m very curious to know how his musical famous elders react to “this very gifted young kid”.

I asked
Jeff Hamilton: “Graham is so mature for his age. I first met him when he was very young. We had a mutual friend in common. He was a violin classical player then. Many years later, I saw him with a guitar and was very astonished. He came to me and asked if he could sit in for a song with my trio. He did and I was amazed by his talent, especially playing Jazz guitar because he basically first was a classical player! We became friends and played together. I gave him some advice. When he was ready, I asked him “Which musician do you want to play with: Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, Diana Krall … you name it.” He immediately answered to me: “I want to play with you!” What a compliment! That’s how he became a member of our big band (the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra).

“Graham reminds me exactly of when John Clayton and I were teenagers. We studied music and played night and day, every hour. We transcribed hundreds of solos to understand what this music was all about. Graham does exactly the same and I love his way of learning music and things.”

By the same token, that’s how Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown or Milt Jackson, to name a very few, learned how to play this music more than 80 years ago too. There’s no secret; those things are still the same today.

“I met Graham when he was a young boy because his father (Brad Dechter) is an amazing composer/arranger/orchestrator and a close friend of mine” told me John Clayton. “When Graham first showed interest in music, I knew him as a violinist and then as a composer who was writing for symphony-like orchestras when he was in high school!

Graham is one of those young, passionate-about-music and eager-to-learn musicians.  He loves to swing and is not ashamed about his desire to do so.  This kind of commitment and focus is rare in someone his age and has helped him to soar to the top.  He is not good "for his age" he is just plain GOOD.”

Tamir Hendelman relates: “The first time I met Graham was in 2002. He had come to hear the Jeff Hamilton Trio perform. He is a man of many musical talents, but even then I could see his dedication to his art. He is very immersed in the music, and loves to make music together with others. He’s all about the groove, he is a student of the music, and always sets the highest musical standards for himself.  We all love the fire in his playing, his sensitivity, and how he is never afraid to dig into the Blues.”

“Graham is also a great collaborator and team player, but also really knows how to be a leader musically... He has a very clear vision of what he wants to present in his music, and makes sure everyone has room to shine” adds Tamir.

Graham chose, along with Tamir, all the songs of this album. “I totally trust them” Jeff tells me with conviction. “I know them for a long time. They know what we, John and I, like to play”.

“Takin’ It There” is composed and co-arranged (with Graham) by the very talented L.A. – based pianist Josh Nelson. “I wanted to record it for a long time. Josh is a close friend and a wonderful pianist-arranger. This tune is the basic start for the whole album” adds Graham.

It’s a hard swingin’ one with some interesting voices and changes at the intro and coda. The super rocky and smoky rhythm section, John and Jeff, make Graham and Tamir swing so hard that we find their solos all too brief. Yeah men!

“Chega De Saudade" aka “No More Blues”, an immortal hit song written in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by geniuses Antonio Carlos Jobim (music) and Vinicius de Moraes (lyrics), is one of the highlights of this CD. To me, it’s one of the two best versions I heard in decades, after the 1958 original interpretation played by Brazilian female singer Elizete Cardoso with Jobim (piano, arranger, conductor, vocal) and João Gilberto (guitar, vocal), from the album “Canção do Amor Demais” originally issued on Odeon Records.

“I suggested this tune because I always loved it so much. It gives you a lot of different ways to play it and gives you the possibility to be imaginative. Tamir came with some very original ideas” explains Graham.

Tamir notes: “I wanted to give its famous intro a spiky counterpoint (for which Graham offered a wonderful single note guitar technique) as a way to contrast with the lyrical verse intro melody. Graham really knew the original version, and that helped shape some of the chord choices. He also came up with great elements for the ending. We had fun going back and forth between the 6/8 feel and the samba- and I felt the  ensemble section in the middle would be a nice way to mellow things out before Graham goes full tilt at the end. Graham just takes a tour de force solo on this...Makes me smile just thinking about it....”

And Master drummer Alvin Queen added to me recently: “Jeff is the best Jazz drummer to play Brazilian rhythms. Period.”

This is a Masterpiece tribute to the Brazilian People and Music.

“Grease for Graham” is composed, arranged and dedicated by John to Graham. Here are John’s comments: “Along with loving the jazz repertoire, Graham also likes the Blues. When he feels it, he will have no problem throwing some of his love for the Blues in his solos.  His closeness to "grease," as we musicians like to call it, inspired me to write a grease vehicle for him.  He immediately played it as if he were born in a tub of lard.”

To my feeling, I can hear a lot Herb Ellis spirit here, which is well confirmed by Graham. “Oh Man, Herb is one of my all-time favorites. I can’t play the Blues without having some of Herb’s phrases in mind.” But the fact is that it definitely is Graham’s sound and style.

“Together and Apart”, an original and co-arranged, with Tamir, by Graham, is a special tune with some nostalgic moods. “I wrote it when I was doubt filled period of my life. It always stayed in my head. I decided to write this piece”. The introduction is superbly mastered, as usual, by John’s fantastic arco bass phrases. A cherished tune indeed.

“Road Song” is a Wes Montgomery’s original written in 1968 (from his last album “Road Song”, A&M Records, now on A&M/Universal CD 9362.) This was, by the way, his penultimate official tune recorded before he died. Again, it’s Graham’s sound here and not a clone of Wes. It’s a very difficult exercise in style that he perfectly mastered: to be himself.

Please, pay attention to the very groovy, funky and greasy solo by John on bass. Wow!

“Be Deedle Dee Do”, composed by legendary guitarist Barney Kessel, is a tribute to the unmatched “The Poll Winners”, aka Barney Kessel,
Ray Brown, Shelly Manne (from “The Poll Winners Ride Again”, 1958, Contemporary Records, now on Concord OJCCD 607-25).

“John Clayton and I studied many of their -very difficult- arrangements and played them live. Boy, what a kick! To me, this is the very best trio guitar-bass-drums in that style ever. You can’t match Barney, Ray and Shelly! They are Gods to all of us in the business” exclaims Graham who co-arranged it with Tamir. Our pianist comes with some new original voicing’s on it because to the addition of the piano. John always plays the Blues with great feeling and inspiration. Jeff shines again at his best on this medium lay- down tempo, which is one of his trademarks.

“Hocus Pocus”, composed by legendary trumpeter Lee Morgan (from “The Sidewinder”, 1963, Blue Note Records, now on Blue Note EMI CD 724349533226) is a frenetic up tempo version, arranged by our leader. His short solo is very clear, precise, without any artifice. If you don’t know his age, you would really think that he is 50 years old because his solo is so mature. This is another highlight.

“Father”, written by great but still underrated tenor sax George Coleman (from the album “Live at Yoshi’s”, 1989, Evidence Records CD 22021-2) is a relaxed but “tight” version of this wonderful melody. Tamir^s solo is very inspired and exciting, fantastically supported by the top team of  John and Jeff, whose brushes’ work is, as usual, a pure delight.

With a ballad solo intro, “Amanda”, composed by Graham, shows us his very sensitive touch and way to expose a melody of that sort. Then, followed by the quartet, “Ev’ry Time We Say Good Bye”, dedicated to Master singer Joe Williams, who recorded this gorgeous song in 1960 (arranged by great pianist Jimmy Jones, from “Sentimental and Melancholy” album, Roulette Records, now on EMI CD 724386690029). “Every time I hear that version, it blows me away! The sound of the voice of Joe and the way that he phrases every note inspires me so much that I wanted to record it” explains Graham. “He only plays the melody and stays around it. With only two or three notes, he tells it all”. This version is another facet of Graham’s Art. Advice for all young guitarists: you have to transcribe and study this version right away. Listen to the very appealing Tamir’s solo too. This version is one of the best ever recorded in decades.

To close this very exciting set, here’s an original medium-up tempo version of the hit song “Come Rain or Come Shine” (from the 1946 Broadway musical “St. Louis Woman”). is another co-arranged tune by our usual killer team, Graham-Tamir. They really go so well together and come up with such fresh new ideas that we rediscover it in a different way. The quartet does another tour de force indeed.

Some people might be surprised to find the same ensemble of musicians on that new CD as on the first one, “Right On Time”. But it’s consistent with what Graham wants and with his long term plans: “I really like to have a group who grows up together, to establish some deep connections between all the members, to make better music every day, to play higher and higher in terms of musical quality and human complicity. It takes a long time to achieve this. You can’t do that with musicians that you only play with once or twice or even five times.”

Today; most of the –Jazz- musicians’ never record two albums in a row with the same confreres. They -and the producers- think that they have to come up with some different musicians all the time, record a total opposite repertoire of what they did on their previous albums. The result is that in 95 % of cases, their efforts never yielded what they intended.

These are the kind of albums you listen to only once but never after because none of them retain your attention and/or reach deeply your heart.

For a comparison, we have to go to our record collection and see how many albums of the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown, Herb Ellis and/or Ed Thigpen we still love and listen to? Or
Louis Armstrong & his All Stars, Horace Silver Quintet, Art Blakey & his Jazz Messengers, John Kirby & his Sextet, Benny Goodman Trio-Quartet-Quintet, Miles Davis Quintet, Bill Evans Trio, Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Fats Waller & His Rhythm etc? Plenty of. Why? They all had a steady group for years. They grew up, traveled, lived, recorded, breathed, and suffered together. All those ingredients make up what Jazz is all about. Decades may go by but these artists and their music never die. They’re the reasons that it’s still here.

The great news is that Graham, John, Jeff and Tamir are back to these essential ingredients.  This CD is fantastic proof of their pure SWINGIN’ and EXCITING collaboration.

Gentlemen, we are expecting many other great releases in the near future. Without any doubt, this Graham Dechter-led Quartet is really “Takin’ It There!”

Article by
“Beethoven” (Jean-Michel Reisser), Lausanne, Switzerland.

A photograph of guitarist Graham Dechter. Photos © Graham Dechter. Order Graham Dechter CDs from and

A photograph of guitarist Graham Dechter. Photos © Graham Dechter. Sheet music Jeff Hamilton. Order Graham Dechter CDs from and

Graham Dechter: Takin' It There. September 2012. Order the CD from and

Graham Dechter: Right On Time. Order the CD from Order Graham Dechter CDs from and

Atsuko Hashimoto with guitarist Graham Dechter and drummer Jeff Hamilton: Until the Sun Comes. Order the CD from,

Adam Schroeder with John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton and Graham Dechter: A Handful of Stars. Order the CD from and - Order Graham Dechter CDs from and

A photograph of guitarist Graham Dechter. Photos © Graham Dechter. Order Graham Dechter CDs from and

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.