Gerald Clayton

Eight years later, Gerald Clayton, pianist and composer, has been a prominent figure in the new generation of jazz musicians who can play a variety of styles. Clayton has been praised by The New York Times as having a “huge, authoritative” presence. He is on the right track to making an enduring impression in jazz’s rich and long tradition. This is evident in Life Forum, Clayton’s latest Concord Jazz recording and his most ambitious project. Clayton was born in the Netherlands in 1984, and grew up in Southern California. He learned piano lessons at the age of seven, with the support and encouragement from his father, John Clayton, a jazz composer, bassist and bandleader. From as young as he can recall, music was a major part of Clayton’s life. He remembers that he was given a talent show in which he played a boogie woogie tune that his dad had written for him. It was my first performance in front of an audience and I felt like people were moved by the music I had just played. Clayton went to the L.A. County High School for the Arts, and then enrolled at the USC Thornton School of Music. He temporarily moved to New York during his third year at USC to study at Manhattan School of Music. He says that he knew he would eventually move to New York so he decided to temporarily relocate to the city to study at the Manhattan School of Music. After spending a year in Los Angeles to complete his degree, he returned to New York to permanently settle. Gerald was awarded the second prize in 2006’s Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz piano Competition. He met Roy Hargrove, the trumpeter, around that time. They were both featured performers at a Henry Mancini Orchestra performance. Clayton recalls that they met backstage at one of the rehearsals and began playing duets. “I would then see him occasionally in New York and he would tell me, ‘Great that’s you’re here now. “I’ll call you.” That’s how it all started. This led to three years of extensive touring and appearances on Hargrove recordings, Earfood (2008), and Emergence (2009, respectively). Gerald was also featured on several recordings by other artists such as Diana Krall and Kendrick Scott.

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