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.
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