John Clayton is a natural born multitasker. The multiple roles in which he excels – composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, and extraordinary bassist – garner him a number of challenging assignments and commissions. With a Grammy on his shelf and eight additional nominations, artists such as Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, and Charles Aznavour vie for a spot on his crowded calendar. His many musical pursuits include the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which he founded along with his brother Jeff in 1986, and the Clayton Brothers quintet, which includes his son Gerald on piano. As a teacher, in addition to presenting individual clinics, workshops, and private students as schedule permits, he directs the educational components associated with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Centrum Festival, and Vail Jazz Party.
John’s many career highlights include arranging “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Whitney Houston’s performance at the 1990 Super Bowl (the recording went platinum), playing bass on Paul McCartney’s CD “Kisses On The Bottom,” arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma and Friends on “Songs of Joy and Peace,” and arranging playing and conducting the 2009 CD “Charles Aznavour With the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra,” and numerous recordings with Diana Krall, the Clayton Brothers, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz, Orchestra, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander and many others. He will be honored by the California Jazz Society with the Nica Award at the organization’s annual Give the Band a Hand gala at the L.A. Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on April 2.
John took time out of his very busy schedule to speak with Overture’s Linda A. Rapka at his home studio in Altadena.
You are a man of many musical hats, as an accomplished jazz and classical musician as well as performer, composer and arranger. Musically speaking, who do you see yourself as?
It sounds a little cliché, but I identify myself as a music guy. There are kinds of music that I’m drawn to more than other kinds, but that range is pretty broad for me.
Judging from the volumes of music behind us, I don’t doubt that one bit.
I never want to feel like I’ve arrived. I never want to feel like OK, this is what I do. Period, the end. These are the styles of music I play or write. No, please. More. I think most artists are like that. Continue reading