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Mastermind behind the Vail Jazz Workshop and a pioneer of the Vail Jazz Festival, Grammy winner John Clayton grew up in California learning bass from jazz master Ray Brown, whose bass he now plays.
He toured with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra before taking the position of principle bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Upon his return to the states he founded The Clayton Brothers with his brother (and long-time Workshop instructor) saxophonist Jeff Clayton. John is an avid music educator, and currently serves as Artistic Director for no fewer than five jazz organizations, and has composed or arranged for the likes of Natalie Cole, The Tonight Show Band, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston and Diana Krall.
Q+A WITH JOHN CLAYTON
What is the most memorable comment you’ve received?
When an audience member lets me know that my music touched them, made them feel great or made them cry, it makes me feel like I was successful in sharing my expression.
What’s your favorite on-stage or pre-gig sipper?
I don’t drink on stage. I spent two years in the Count Basie Orchestra and five years in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Both insisted that you hydrate before playing, so I am a bit “Old School” in that regard.
What about a post-gig drink?
Afterward, I’m a wine guy!
What is the most striking venue you’ve ever played?
It’s hard to mention only one! The list would include the Acropolis in Athens, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, and a long list of small venues around the world with intimate acoustics.
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Watch the six Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors in action this Vail Jazz Party, together as the Vail Jazz Party House Band and on their own throughout the weekend!
This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.