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BRATTLEBORO â Vocalist Jay Clayton will perform live at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, October 23 at 8 p.m., as part of a tour celebrating his 80th birthday. She will be accompanied by the Ray Gallon Trio, with Ray Gallon on piano, Jay Leonhart on acoustic bass and Billy Drummond on drums.
An adventurous singer whose training and repertoire are deeply rooted in jazz standards, Clayton’s dozens of recordings as a leader reveal an ease with the Great American Songbook and an ability to swing like crazy.
But when interpreting these standards, Clayton, a creative artist of the highest level, sets the bar higher. Her playful spirit and love of improvisation continually lead her on a quest to design unique arrangements that present her work in new settings that are daring and filled with surprises.
Clayton improves his performances with speechless vocals, electronic loopers and the use of free and open forms. She sometimes uses her voice as an instrument as she demonstrates in Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” (found on Beautiful love, his duet album with Fred Hersch), preserving its essence but reimagining its sonic possibilities through the prism of its sound and its imagination.
She is quick to mention that the horn players have been important influences in her development.
In an interview with JazzItalia, she recalls: âWe seriously listened to jazz. I saw [John] Coltrane in a small bar in Cincinnati. The way he connected each note – taking the melody and changing it very slightly, amplifying it or simplifying it – amazed me. And what miles [Davis] what I was doing was singing through the horn – it was the horn players that entered my soul.
She moved to New York after graduating in music from the University of Miami in Ohio. In the city, she experienced free jazz as it flourished, listening voraciously to live performances by Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins when they were at the heart of their creativity.
With these experiences, therefore, Clayton was exposed to powerful forces that helped her develop her own voice and sanctioned a new way for her to think about creating music. They served as a bridge that gave him a vehicle to unite his love for jazz standards with his desire to explore new sounds.
Clayton and her former husband, drummer Frank Clayton, hosted sessions at their Lispenard Street loft in lower Manhattan, welcoming spirit seekers like Joanne Brackeen, Sam Rivers, Dave Liebman, Bob Moses and Cecil McBee to explore. the fruits of reflection. out of the box.
Young Clayton forged a deep relationship with these spirited musicians, and her reputation flourished; Free jazz pioneers Muhal Richard Abrams and Rashied Ali soon asked him to join their groups.
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VSLayton has arrived in New York as a young woman with a college degree in classical music; she could read music and understand jazz chords and theory, and she was also familiar with the world of the Great American Songbook. Once she joined the bands of Abrams and Ali, she also became known as a singer eager to push the boundaries of cabaret-style singing and embrace the new directions music was taking.
She has a team spirit and is an enthusiastic collaborator. When the time came for her to present her own concepts of leadership, her talents, abilities and musical choices drew the attention of top musicians who enthusiastically joined her visionary endeavors.
Among the many notable musicians who have appeared on his recordings are Fred Hersch, Jane Ira Bloom, Gary Peacock, George Cables, Gary Thomas, Abrams, Stanley Cowell, Houston Person, Lee Konitz, Bobby McFerrin and Norma Winstone.
In a review of Clayton’s 2010 album In and out of love, Raul d’Gama Rose says Clayton is one of “a handful of female singers alive today who continue to inhabit the rarefied space of imaginative storytellers while continuing to be unbridled innovators.”
âAn inimitable presence, Clayton’s technique is flawless,â he writes.
Clayton’s tone, ability and creative spirit were also appreciated by contemporary classical composers, who realized that his training, infallible sense of time, and perfect intonation served their own musical aspirations.
Legendary composers Steve Reich and John Cage have both consistently included Clayton in their ensembles; it can be heard on several of their recordings. To this day, she continues to explore new territories.
One of his most recent releases is Alone together, a voice and drums duo record 2020 (no piano, no guitar, no bass), with the remarkable drummer Jerry Granelli. This album demonstrates Clayton’s delight in taking on risky musical challenges and reinforces the unexpected pleasures that follow when the odds are tried.
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Oanother characteristic which characterizes Jay Clayton is his penchant for poetry. In faculty concerts for the VJC Summer Jazz Workshop, she always performs two contrasting selections: a melody from a familiar canon jazz standard and one that includes spoken word.
She has recorded two albums based on poetry, including a tribute to Emily Dickinson, Untangling Emily, where she and pianist Kirk Nurock composed, arranged and layered Dickinson’s lyrics on a sound tapestry.
Another poetry-centric album produced by Clayton, The peace of wild things: Sing and save the poets, received high praise, including this excerpt from a JazzTimes review: “Clayton concocts a crafty elixir of ethereal and diamond-crisp linen clarity as she shapes poems in angular tones, then, like beds of rose petals and thorns, slides them beneath the poetry of ‘ee cummings, Wendell Berry and his, haiku type lyrics.
Clayton applies this affinity for poetry to his work as a jazz artist: his delivery of lyrics is enhanced by a deep understanding of the meaning and intent of words, which allows him to imbue a spoken word with heightened meaning. to deliberate phrasing choices and subtle tonal gestures.
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VSlayton gravitated towards teaching as a means of completing his vocation as an interpreter.
She taught at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for 20 years, as well as at Princeton University and the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She is a faculty member of numerous workshops in the United States and abroad.
Clayton’s book, Sing Your Story: A Practical Guide to Learning and Teaching the Art of Jazz Singing, was released by Advance Music in 2001.
She has influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of emerging singers.
When asked in the interview with JazzItalia What message she wants her students to remember, Clayton replied that “listening is not optional.”
âListening is the most important thing,â she continued. âI give you lots of things to do when I teach, but it won’t work without listening. You learn this music by osmosis. And people who are less experienced learn from people who are more experienced. And we all have someone more experienced in our lives that we can learn from. “
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Jthe making Jay Clayton in this celebration of his 80th birthday is the Ray Gallon Trio.
Pianist Ray Gallon and Clayton have been essential members of the Jazz Center’s summer workshop for over a decade. Both were invited to the workshop on the recommendation of National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, who has led the program’s jazz vocal workshop since 1997.
Gallon has performed, recorded and toured around the world with many top jazz artists including Ron Carter, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, TS Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Wycliffe Gordon , Les Paul, Benny Golson, Frank Wess, Lew Tabackin, George Adams and the Mingus Big Band.
Great pianist Kenny Barron says: âI have always considered Ray Gallon one of the best pianists around. He is an excellent soloist and a perfect accompanist.
Gallon has performed at most major jazz festivals and venues in North and South America, Europe, and Japan, and has appeared in gala concerts at the White House and the Kennedy Center.
Gallon has also accompanied many great singers, including Jon Hendricks, Chaka Khan, Sheila Jordan, Grady Tate, Nnenna Freelon, Gloria Lynne, Dakota Staton, Joe Williams and Jane Monheit.
A full-time member of the City College of New York Jazz Faculty, Gallon also conducts his own trio and gives solo concerts. His compositions have been recorded by TS Monk, the Harper brothers and George Adams.
The bassist for the performance is Jay Leonhart, who was called by JazzTimes “the Fred Astaire of jazz – such a fluid craftsman that casual observers often fail to grasp the immensity of his talent.”
Between 1975 and 1995, he was three times named the recording industry’s most valuable double bassist by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Leonhart recorded numerous solo albums and performed a one-man show, The bass lesson, on his life in the music industry.
The trio’s drummer is Billy Drummond, who has been called “one of the coolest band leaders now at work” by Highligths magazine. Also a former faculty member of the VJC Summer Jazz Workshop, Drummond has been a member of the touring and recording workgroups of Horace Silver, JJ Johnson and Sonny Rollins. them.
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VSto the Jazz Center on October 23 to find out why All the music guide calls Jay Clayton “one of the most phenomenal singers in creative improvised music”. This concert will be a special and limited experience in the presence of many students from Clayton. Great American Songbook and bebop aficionados will be blown away by the band’s repertoire and the hot but sensitive rhythm section.
The VJC will host a 50% reduced capacity audience (120 people) in person at 72 Cotton Mill Hill, # 222, with tickets priced on a sliding scale of $ 20 to $ 40, available at vtjazz.org or by email at ginger @ vtjazz.org. Proof of vaccination and ID cards will be verified, and masking and social distancing will also be required.
For those who cannot attend in person, the concert will also be streamed live for free (donations welcome) on the Vermont Jazz Center website (vtjazz.org) and on facebook.com/VermontJazzCenter/live.
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