John Lee Clayton Jr. was born on August 20, 1952 in Venice, California. He began seriously undertaking the study of double bass at age 16, studying with bassist Ray Brown. By age 19, he had become a bassist on Henry Mancini’s television series The Mancini Generation. He later graduated in 1975 from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music with a degree in bass performance.
He toured with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra before becoming the principal bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in the Netherlands. Returning to the States after five years and moved towards jazz and jazz composition. Shortly after his return he founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with his saxophonist brother Jeff Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. He and his brother also founded The Clayton Brothers which has featured instrumentalists such as Bill Cunliffe and Terell Stafford.
Clayton has composed and/or arranged for The Count Basie Orchestra, Diana Krall, Whitney Houston, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Ernestine Anderson, Quincy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, Till Bronner, and The Tonight Show Band. He won a Grammy for Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” (Queen Latifah) and was nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group for Brother To Brother by The Clayton Brothers.
From 1999 to 2001 he served as Artistic Director of the Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic program at the Hollywood Bowl, has conducted the All-Alaska Jazz Band and and has been president over the International Society of Bassists. In addition to performing, bassist John Clayton currently serves as Artistic Director for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Sarasota Jazz Festival, Santa Fe Jazz Party, Jazz Port Townsend Summer Workshop, and Vail Jazz Workshop. He is also an educator, teaching at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.
More Posts: bass
Ivon Karel De Bie was born August 13, 1914 in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Brussels, Belgium. He received piano lessons from the age of six for ten years and around 1936 he began working as an amateur with Jimmy Turner, George Clais and with the Blue Blythe Players.
From 1938 onwards he directed his own bands as well as playing and recording beginning in the Forties in the groups of Fud Candrix, Jeff De Boeck and his metro band. In 1942 Ivon recorded his debut with a quartet with Andre Mersch, Gene Kempf and Jeff De Boeck on the Metrophone label. That same year he accompanied Django Reinhardt on a session for the Belgian label Rhythme, recording Vous et moi, Distraction, Blues en Mineur and Studio 24.
He went on to continue recording with Candrix in Berlin, with Hubert Rostaing in Brussels and with members of the Stanbrender Orchestra for the Olympia label. After the World War II De Bie directed a big band recordings for Decca Records, and also played with Robert De Kers.
From the 1950s, Ivon directed the orchestra recordings of the Middelkerke Casino played in bands led by David Bee, as well as with Brother Powell and His Dixie Rag-a-Jazz Band and The Original Syncopators Gang. In 1957 he became the artistic director of the Belgian department of RCA Victor and his last recordings were made in 1983 with the BRT Jazzorkest OLV under the direction of Etienne Verschueren.
Over the course of his career in the field of jazz he was involved in 41 recording sessions between 1941 and 1983. He wrote a series of jazz compositions such as Dixie Souvenir, partly under the pseudonym Don Bayo. His piano style was influenced by Billy Kyle, Bob Zurke, Earl Hines and Art Tatum. Pianist, composer and bandleader Ivon De Bie passed away in 1989 in Brussels.
More Posts: piano
Claude Thornhill was born on August 10, 1909 in Terre Haute, Indiana and as a youth was recognized as an extraordinary piano talent and along with clarinet and trumpet prodigy Danny Polo, formed a traveling duo. While a student at Garfield High School he played with several theater bands before entering the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music at age sixteen.
He and clarinetist Artie Shaw started their careers together at the Golden Pheasant in Cleveland, Ohio playing in the Austin Wiley Orchestra. By 1931 they were in New York City and in 1935 he was playing on sessions with Glenn Miller, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, Billie Holiday and arranged Loch Lomond and Annie Laurie for Maxine Sullivan.
Later in the decade he moved out to the West Coast with the Bob Hope Radio Show and arranged for Judy Garland in Babes in Arms. In 1939 he founded the Claude Thornhill Orchestra with his old friend Danny Polo was his lead clarinetist. Although the band was a sophisticated dance band, it became known for its superior jazz musicians and for his and Gil Evans’s arrangements.
Encouraging the musicians to develop cool-sounding tones, the band played without vibrato. The band was popular with both musicians and the public and Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool nonet was modeled in part on Thornhill’s sound and unconventional instrumentation. The band’s most successful records were Snowfall, A Sunday Kind of Love, and Love for Love.
1942 saw him enlisting in the Navy and playing across the Pacific Theater with Jackie Cooper as his drummer and Dennis Day as his vocalist. After his discharge in ‘46 he reunited his ensemble and Danny Polo, Gerry Mulligan and Barry Galbraith returned with new members, Red Rodney, Lee Konitz, Joe Shulman, and Bill Barber. For a brief time in the mid 1950s, Claude was briefly Tony Bennett’s musical director.
Pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Claude Thornhill passed away on July 1, 1965. A large portion of his extensive library of music is currently held by Drury University in Springfield, Missouri and in 1984 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
More Posts: piano
Kamil Hála was born on August 1, 1931 in Most, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and during his musical career he worked as a pianist and arranger with a number of renowned jazz and dance orchestras, among them he starred in the Zdeněk Barták Orchestra.
As a composer and arranger he spent time collaborating with the Karel Vlach Orchestra and also directed his own jazz big band. Together with Josef Vobruba, they worked as conductors at the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra and the Jazz Orchestra of Czechoslovak Radio .
Pianist, composer, conductor and arranger Kamil Hála, brother of trumpeter and music composer Vlastimila Hala, passed away on October 28, 2014 in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
More Posts: piano
Fletcher Allen was born on July 25, 1905 in Cleveland, Ohio and began his career in the mid-’20s as a member of Lloyd Scott’s Band in New York City. In 1927, he was off to Europe for the first time in a group under the direction of Leon Abbey, a bandleader whose pioneering efforts with jazz eventually led to a 1936 tour of India which he also participated in. In between, he went to Budapest with the Benny Peyton group in 1929 and hung out in Europe the following decade. While in Europe he performed on several collaborations with guitarist Django Reinhardt, among others.
Reinhardt recorded some of his arrangements and compositions, including the intoxicating Viper’s Dream. Allen also took advantage of the European base to take part in several tours involving top American performers such as Louis Armstrong, Freddy Taylor and Leon Abbey in the ’30s. It was during this time that he began leading his own band.
By 1938, he began performing with Benny Carter, something of a doppelgänger in that both men played alto saxophone and clarinet and had excellent reputations as arrangers and shows up several times in the extensive Carter discography. He went on to Later that year, Allen went to Egypt as a member of the Harlem Rhythmakers group during an era when American jazz musicians held court at swank Cairo hotels, a situation that would be quite inconceivable in modern times.
As World War II escalated Fletcher returned home to the States and at first found little work but eventually left the docks when he found that his new skills on baritone sax meant work filling in the sections of various New York big bands. His last job of any notoriety began in the early 70s with the big band of Fred “Taxi” Mitchell, meaning he was one New Yorker who always managed to find a taxi.
Saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Fletcher Allen, whose composition Viper’s Dream has become a jazz staple, passed away on August 5, 1995.