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John Clayton (bassist)

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John Clayton
Clayton, 2024
Clayton, 2024
Background information
Birth nameJohn Lee Clayton Jr.
Born (1952-08-20) August 20, 1952 (age 71)
Venice, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, swing, classical
Occupation(s)Musician, arranger, composer
Instrument(s)Double bass
Years active1980s–present
Member ofThe Clayton Brothers, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra

John Lee Clayton Jr. (born August 20, 1952)[1] is an American jazz musician, classical double bassist, arranger, and composer.

He is the father of pianist Gerald Clayton and the brother of saxophonist Jeff Clayton, with whom he formed the Clayton Brothers; and the Clayton–Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with Jeff Hamilton.


Clayton with trombonist Jiggs Wigham in 1989

Clayton began his bass career in elementary school playing in strings class, junior orchestra, high school jazz band, orchestra, and soul/R&B groups. In 1969, at the age of 16, he enrolled in Ray Brown’s jazz class at UCLA, beginning a close relationship that lasted more than three decades.[2] Three years later, he was bassist on the Henry Mancini's television series The Mancini Generation.[2] In 1975, he graduated from Indiana University School of Music with a degree in bass performance.

He went on to tour with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra, before taking the position of principal bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam, Netherlands.[2] After five years he returned to the U.S. for a break from the classical genre and, in 1985, co-founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton.[2] He also performed in a duo as the Clayton Brothers with musicians such as Bill Cunliffe and Terell Stafford.

He has been Artistic Director for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Sarasota Jazz Festival, Santa Fe Jazz Party, Jazz Port Townsend Summer Workshop, Jazz at Centrum[3] and Vail Jazz Workshop. From 1999 to 2001, he was the Artistic Director of Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic program at the Hollywood Bowl. He conducted the All-Alaska Jazz Band. He has taught at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and has served as president of the International Society of Bassists.

He has composed and arranged for the Count Basie Orchestra, Diana Krall, Whitney Houston, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Ernestine Anderson, Quincy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, Till Bronner, and the Tonight Show Band.

In 2006, his son Gerald Clayton came in second at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.


In 2007, Clayton won a Grammy Award for Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for the song "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" by Queen Latifah. In December 2009, Brother to Brother by the Clayton Brothers received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.


As leader or co-leader[edit]

With the Clayton Brothers

  • 1991 The Music
  • 1997 Expressions
  • 2000 Siblingity
  • 2005 Back in the Swing of Things
  • 2008 Brother to Brother
  • 2010 The New Song and Dance
  • 2012 The Gathering
  • 2015 Soul Brothers

With Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra

  • 1990 Groove Shop
  • 1991 Heart and Soul
  • 1995 Absolutely!
  • 1999 Explosive! with Milt Jackson
  • 2000 Shout Me Out!
  • 2005 Live at MCG
  • 2009 Charles Aznavour & the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
  • 2011 Sundays in New York with Trijntje Oosterhuis

As guest[edit]

With Monty Alexander

  • 1976 Live! Montreux
  • 1983 Reunion in Europe
  • 1983 The Duke Ellington Songbook
  • 1985 The River Monty
  • 1986 Li'l Darlin

With Milt Jackson

  • 1977 Soul Fusion
  • 1993 Reverence and Compassion
  • 1988 Bebop
  • 1994 The Prophet Speaks

With Diana Krall

With others

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John Clayton". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 501/2. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ "Artistic Director John Clayton". centrum.org. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  4. ^ "John Clayton | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 September 2018.

External links[edit]