By likemindblog

John-Clayton-gallery_43_2 c

JOHN  CLAYTON does it all and does it well.  Musician, composer, director, teacher, award winner, this incredibly talented and charming  man has such an aura about him  as well, reflecting a kind, gentle, sensitive and caring nature.  John comes from a highly musical environment as his brothers are into music as well.

John, welcome and thank you from the heart.  You’ve managed, through an incredibly busy schedule to answer my questions for our readers and it is sincerely appreciated. 

No. 1)  What is music to and for you?

Music is my voice.  It is that through which I can express myself.  Whether I am playing original music in the Clayton Brothers Quintet, the larger format of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, duos and trios–it doesn’t matter. I’m allowed to share some things that are in me.  Hence, music is a vital tool of expression for me.  It’s not to compare to familial or personal relationships–those are the core of who I am and represent something quite different. 

No. 2)  What inspires you?john-clayton-sp

People inspire me.  Situations inspire me.  Other music inspires me.  Even more things affect me.  I may not be inspired by politics, poverty, hunger or crime, but I am absolutely affected by them. 

No. 3)  When you are creating, playing, where does it take you?  I mean where does your mind (spirit) travel?

I don’t know, but it does “travel” to a “zone.”  The thing I try to remember is to keep one foot on the earth as I play music.  As much as we all love to be transported when we play and listen to music, it is important that we control the music and not let it control us.  I still have to express myself with clarity and requires simultaneously being in the zone and in control of the instrument.

No. 4)  Do you think music, visual arts and health are related and if so, how?

I do, but I don’t think that anyone else or everyone else has to agree.  Perhaps a music fanatic just doesn’t see or agree to the connection between music and visual arts, for instance.  Fine. What we do is subjective.  Your concept of art is YOUR concept of art.  You’re not going to like the exact same songs or sculptures as any single person on the planet.  But I love that about what we do.  I also notice how much more work it is for me to create when I am not healthy. I would almost expand this question by adding life to the list.

No. 5)  How do you feel when you are playing for yourself versus JohnClayton-06_fsperforming for an audience?

I always “perform” for an audience, even if I am in a room by myself, figuring things out.  I want everything I play to come from my soul, not wait until I’m on the stage to connect to that part of myself.

No. 6)  Under what conditions do you do your best work?
I need a quiet space, some solitude and a comfortable temperature.  🙂   It’s hard for me to work when I’m in a cold, dank space.  The other components are energy and inspiration.  People and music give me that.  For instance, I remember hearing Ray Brown’s trio play a blues one night.  The vibe they created in that performance was like bathing in molasses.  It stuck to me, I drove home and wrote a piece for our Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra called SHOUT ME OUT.  I did it in one sitting and it just flowed out of me, thanks to the inspiration that Ray Brown’s group gave me.
No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level? 

I identify with my music in many ways.  A big way, though, is variety. I love variety.  And extremes. I like different ensemble sizes, music styles, moods, and so on.  I’m that way in many ways outside of music.
No. 8)  Does playing music help you connect with your higher self, whatever that is for you?

Yes. I’d like to meet a musician isn’t connected to something deep withinJOHN CLAYTON, DIANE KRALL, YO YO MA themselves through music.  Or, maybe I wouldn’t like to meet such a musician!  Wouldn’t not connecting to something inside of you present some kind of hollow, expressionless performance?

No. 9)  How do you feel about creativity in the public school systems?

I think creativity, the arts, in our schools is crucial.  If we are going to cultivate well balanced citizens, we need it all–math, science, language, art, etc.  Removing things like the arts will only give us a 3 wheeled cart.  I’m always frustrated when I encounter people who can’t understand this.  Isn’t it obvious?  
No. 10)  In your opinion, what could be a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school systems?

A simple solution would be to have a funding source that take on that financial responsibility.  If large corporations would agree to earmark a small portion of their assets to do that, we’d be done.

jc-bass2-lhjfNo. 11)  What is jazz to you?

It’s an American music created by African Americans that contains specific elements that define it as such.  These elements include the blues, specific rhythms and improvisation.  Moreover, it is music and culture that speak to me, that allow me to feel at home.
No. 12)  How do you feel about improvisation in music?

All music stems from and includes some type of improvisation.  I can’t imagine music without improvisation on some level.

Again John, thank you for your generosity in sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.  I want to wish you well in all your endeavours and until our paths cross again, be blessed!


You are cordially invited to visit John’s links below to find out more about his incredible career and hear some of his music including cuts from his new release.  Your comments are always apprNSAD cover w Grammy nom bannereciated, thank you so much, enjoy!

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Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, April 22nd, 2011


I have had the pleasure of meeting John on a few occassions and if a smile can give a warm hearty hug his does just that. what a lovely spirit!


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My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours