Born in 1955, alto saxophonist and multi-reed instrumentalist Jeff Clayton began his career as both a touring and studio musician. Clayton studied oboe and English Horn at California State University Northridge, completed 3 and one half years of study, and was asked to join Stevie Wonders band while attending college, where he spent 3 years recording and touring with the popular music giant.
Following Jeff’s association with Stevie Wonder he recorded with Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle, Earth, Wind & Fire and Madonna. On Madonna’s recording Back in Business, Jeff was nominated for a Grammy for best Pop soloist. In 1977 John and Jeff Clayton founded The Clayton Brothers Quartet with his brother, later to become the Clayton Brothers Quintet adding and featuring Terell Stafford on Trumpet.
Recently Jeff has been a main stay as Jeff has also toured with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, and Lena Horne, and played in the Count Basie Orchestra while under the leadership the Count and after Basie’s passing with Thad Jones. From 1989 to 1991 he was also a member of the Phillip Morris Superband, a jazz star studded orchestra headed by Gene Harris and Ray Brown. He also toured with Gene Harris, Dianne Reeves, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and Ray Charles.
In 1985, Jeff again joined his brother John and drummer Jeff Hamilton to form the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which continues to showcase original compositions and arrangements. In this role he has performed and recorded with Patty Austin, Kurt Elling, Milt Jackson, John Pizzarelli, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Queen Latifa, Diana Krall,Nancy Wilson Michael Bubble Gladys Knight Benny Carter and Benny Golson, among many others. The CHJO was named Big Band of the Year in Down Beat Readers Poll 2003.
Jeff served at UCLA from 1998 to 2002 as an adjunct professor under the able leadership of Kenny Burrell Jazz Studies department head, and at the University of Southern California from 2000 to 2004 with Shelly Berg and Dr. Ron McCurdy. Also, he was an adjunct professor at CSU Long Beach 2005 thru 2007 and Cal State Los Angeles headed by Dr James Ford. Jeff and John Clayton were nominated Educators of the year in Jazz Times Magazine in 2005.
He has numerous Jazz Camps and Clinics to his credit including the Vail Jazz Camp 1994-2010, the Stanford Jazz Camp 2001,University of Notre Dame with Jon Faddis, 2003 again in 2010, and Port Townsend 1991-1993 and again 2004 thru 2010. Savannah Educational Jazz Festival in 2007 thru 2011, Univ of Notre Dame Master Class and performance with his own group the Jeff Clayton Quartet.
Last but not least Jeff was a devoted student of:
Bill Green Los Angeles studio musician. “ I studied with Bill starting on Clarinet at 9 years old until I was 37 years old. He was a mechanical genius, a committed teacher and a valued friend. He taught me all the saxes all the flutes all the Clarinets Oboe English horn and recorders.
Buddy Colette the first Afro American playing on a weekly TV show, Grocho Marks and an incredible teacher. Earle Dummler Studio musician and Oboist, one of the best player/reedmakers in LA.
Jeff notes his experience with numerous masters in the jazz world:
From Thad Jones, who led the Count Basie Orchestra – “I learned the art of rehearsal-how to give musicians the support they needed to create without restrictions. He had a wonderful heart.”
From a life long association with Ray Brown – “I learned about expression, being yourself no matter what and to do what you do best.” “Push through the music phrase”, Ray would say, “put it out there”.
From years in the studio and on stage with Frank Sinatra – “I was shown how to embrace long phrases and how to just state the melody.” Frank was a master of melody.
Jeff’s philosophy towards his music can be summed up as follows: “Music is not mine to keep only to have and to hold, I must give back what I have been so freely given……”