Grammy winning bassist, composer and arranger John Clayton will perform six selections from his albums Friday in Meng Concert Hall.
The performance, hosted by the Fullerton Jazz Orchestra, will include clinics on Thursday and Friday. Friday’s performance will feature the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, of which Clayton is a founding member.
The Grammy-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra is co-led by his brother John, saxophonist Jeff Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton.
John also co-leads with Jeff to create the Clayton Brothers Quintet, which has been nominated for two Grammy awards.
Clayton has written and arranged numerous songs for many famous artists such as Natalie Cole, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones and Gladys Knight, among others.
“We always had music around the house and when I was 13 I was able to take an elective, and I chose music,” said Clayton.
Clayton said he originally signed up to play the tuba, but something immediately caught his eye as he was leaving music class.
“As I was walking out of the room I saw these four large, gorgeous brown things standing in the corner … and I always like to say that he (the band director) crossed off tuba and wrote down my destiny, which was the bass,” Clayton said.
Clayton added that while in high school, he found that a bass player whom he discovered only weeks before, Ray Brown, was teaching a class at UCLA called “Workshop and Jazz Bass,” who eventually became his mentor.
“Brown is the iconic bass player who made so many recordings and tours with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, recorded with Luke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughan and Billie Holiday, and so on,” said Clayton. “He was my teacher who pretty much became a father figure for me, and he opened the door to this music and this life which led to a lot of different things.”
Clayton said that based on the experiences he has created and experienced, it has molded him into who he is today.
Bill Cunliffe, a Cal State Fullerton music professor and director of Clayton’s upcoming performance, explained what students should expect to enjoy based on Clayton’s years of experience.
“He is a very charismatic and emotionally communicative musician. He is about making the music feel great and about inspirational and lyric beauty in his bass playing, arranging and composing,” said Cunliffe. “It is rare to have someone who is a great instrumentalist and a great composer.”
Cunliffe said he has played in both of Clayton’s groups, The Clayton Brothers Quintet and the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra for more than 10 years.
“(Clayton) reached out to me when I moved to town 23 years ago to play in his band, so I have known Clayton since 1989,” Cunliffe said.
Cunliffe desired for Clayton to come to Fullerton, because of the great role model he is to students both as a musician and as a person.
“He (Clayton) is about communication,” Cunliffe said. “I believe that when there is good communication, good music becomes great.”
Luther Hughes, a music professor who teaches electric and double bass at CSUF, explained the connection between Clayton and himself, and how Brown assisted Hughes in landing his first job as a musician.
“Ray gave me my first big important job in town with some very famous jazz players,” said Hughes. “Ray was very instrumental in helping me get my career started in Los Angeles.”
Hughes expressed that besides Clayton being a marvelous educator, his teaching abilities stem from his passion for music.
“He has become a tremendous internationally respected arranger and composer,” Hughes said.
Cunliffe hopes Clayton’s performance will influence students to become emotionally deepened towards jazz.