Clement is modest both about her own prodigious technique and her marvelous new album, Hush (Conduit Records). From the cloudy, gospel-inflected opening chords of "Early Morning Rose" to the loping strut of "Big Fat Blues," Hush showcases Clement's ability to serve as a sensitive and alert accompanist, as well as her willingness to blaze ahead and take the tune someplace new. Particularly striking is the album's centerpiece, "Tension Tamer." This 10-minute track has oblique--and at times obstreperous--detours that at first disrupt and ultimately determine the flow of the tune. Not content to write songs for soloists to blow for 16 bars, Clement composes pieces that have a well-hewn grace.
I was also taken with Hush's lone vocal track, a cover of Tom Waits' "Midnight Lullaby." Clement's spare, almost shivering voice distills the essence of the song. She wasn't sure if she'd sing at this gig, but Clement will be joined by the musicians who helped make Hush such a fine listen: flutist and saxophonist Hans Teuber, bassist Geoff Cooke, and drummer Jose Martinez. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
Dawn Clement performs Fri Sept 26 at 8 pm (PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish, 710 E Roy St, 325-6500), $6/$12.