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The talents of seven-time Grammy-nominated bassist/composer/conductor JOHN CLAYTON are consistently requested by the movers and shakers in the jazz industry, such as Quincy Jones and Tommy Lipuma. Clayton says, “When composing or arranging for the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, I am a disciple of Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, and Gil Evans, to name just a few.” Regarding his bowing, he cites the radically different techniques of Slam Stewart, Major Holley, and Paul Chambers as influences. There is no doubt, however, that John has created a niche for himself wherein he stands alone. As a testament to his immense talent and broad ranging appeal, John Clayton served as the Artistic Director of Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl from 1999 through 2001.
John has written and arranged music for Diana Krall, Dee Dee Bridgewater (including her Grammy-winning CD Dear Ella), Natalie Cole (for which he received a Grammy nomination), Milt Jackson, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones, George Benson, Dr. John, Regina Carter, and others. He has been commissioned by many ensembles, including the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, the American Jazz Philharmonic, the Iceland Symphony, the Metropole Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Big Band, the Richmond Symphony, the WDR Orchestra, and the Amsterdam Philharmonic. He has received seven Grammy nominations and in 2008 he earned a Grammy for his arrangement of “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” featured on Queen Latifah’s CD Trav’lin’ Light.
Since 2006, John has served as the Artistic Director for the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. The festival recently received the National Medal of Arts from President Bush. Following his credo that music is passed on from one musician to the other, John also teaches at the University of Southern California.
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra is co-led by John, his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton. In the February 2007 issue of JazzTimes, readers voted CHJO the best big band. This followed the December 2004 issue of Down Beat magazine’s Readers Poll where CHJO was named the best big band in America.
Clayton’s serious study of the double bass began at age 16 when he studied with famed bassist Ray Brown. At age 19, John was the bassist for Henry Mancini’s television series The Mancini Generation. He completed his studies at Indiana University in 1975, graduating with a Bachelor of Music in Double Bass. Touring with Monty Alexander and the Count Basie Orchestra followed. He also held the principal bass position in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra for more than five years.