Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2011: Babs Asper

The Clayton Brothers: Serious Groove

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Time for another season of solid concerts in the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series! Rolling into town in mid-October will be one of the year’s highlights: an all-star quintet led by brothers John and Jeff Clayton.

John Clayton is no stranger to Winnipeg audiences. A world-class bassist, he studied with Ray Brown at 16, and went on to work with such superstars as George Benson, Quincy Jones and Diana Krall. Equally adept in jazz and classical idioms, he held the principal bass chair of the Amsterdam Philharmonic for over five years.

Co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, John has become almost as well known for his arranging talents as for his virtuosity on the bass. He’s also a dedicated teacher and clinician, and will be giving a Masters of Jazz masterclass at the U of M during his stay in Winnipeg.

Despite his many talents, what impacted me most when meeting John was his generosity. He gave a comprehensive group bass lesson at the U of M a couple of years ago, teaching for more than three hours straight. When we pulled out our wallets to reimburse him, John declined, kindly suggesting that we put the money towards caring for our basses instead.

Jeff Clayton, John’s brother, is a formidable alto saxophonist. Although his playing channels the bop tradition, his resume includes stints with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Gladys Knight in addition to all the usual suspects. His warm personality and dynamic playing have endeared him to audiences and musicians alike.

Next in line in this brilliant musical lineage, Gerald Clayton has become one of the most exciting and in-demand pianists on the current scene. I recommend checking out Gerald’s latest release, Bond. Recognizable for both his glamorous dreadlocks and superb musicianship, Gerald is taking time away from touring with his own trio to make the date.

Rounding out the band, the Claytons will be joined by drummer Obed Calvaire and monstrous trumpet player Terrell Stafford, who himself has performed with a who’s who of modern jazz musicians, and is now Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University.

If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the audience at the Rady Centre, expect to hear some original material, a variety of standards, and some lesser known gems from the jazz canon. You might even catch a few musical references to other ‘brother connections’ in jazz—perhaps the Joneses or the Adderleys. Regardless of what they play, you can count on the Claytons to present the music with soul, taste, and some serious groove—and that’s why you’ll see me there!

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