James Clay (musician)

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James Clay
Birth nameJames Earl Clay
Born(1935-09-08)September 8, 1935
Dallas, Texas, United States
DiedJanuary 6, 1995(1995-01-06) (aged 59)
Dallas, Texas
GenresHard bop, jazz
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone, flute, alto saxophone

James Earl Clay (born September 8, 1935 – January 6, 1995) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist and flutist.

Early life[edit]

Clay was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 8, 1935.[1] While in school, Clay played alto saxophone, and then played with local bands from around the age of 17.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

Clay moved to California in 1955, where he initially played in jam sessions.[1] He appeared on recordings with Lawrence Marable the following year.[1] Clay then played with freer musicians including Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, and Ornette Coleman, before returning to Dallas in 1958.[1] He joined the military in 1959, and recorded two albums as a leader the following year.[1] Back in California, he led a quartet with Roosevelt Wardell, Jimmy Bond, and Frank Butler, but soon returned to Texas.[1] He toured with Lowell Fulson in the early 1960s, and with Ray Charles on and off between 1962 and 1977.[1] A reappearance on a recording led by Cherry in 1988 – Art Deco – led to a short resurgence of interest in Clay's career.[1][2] He died in Dallas on January 6, 1995.[1]

Playing style[edit]

Grove wrote that "Clay's style revealed a bop-oriented approach, reminiscent of an angular Lester Young."[1] Clay in the late 1980s said: "Texas tenors are known for playing in a raunchy, straight-forward manner, with lots of emotion and few frills. I'm a typical example of that style of player."[2]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kennedy, Gary W. (2002). "Clay, James (Earl)". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.J538400. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b Iverson, Ethan (October 4, 2019). "Chronology: Don Cherry's Reunion Blues". JazzTimes. Retrieved August 22, 2020.

Further reading[edit]