Six-time Grammy Award-nominated pianist, composer and bandleader Gerald Clayton earned recent Recording Academy recognition for “Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard,” his debut release on Blue Note Records. Collaborating over the years with such distinctive artists as Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, Dianne Reeves, Terence Blanchard, John Scofield, Terri Lyne Carrington, Peter Bernstein, Ambrose Akinmusire, Gretchen Parlato, Ben Wendel, the Clayton Brothers Quintet and legendary bandleader Charles Lloyd, Clayton serves as director of Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, following service as musical director for Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.
Under the instruction of Billy Childs, Clayton earned a bachelor of arts in piano performance at University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, after a year of intensive study with Kenny Barron at the Manhattan School of Music.
Clayton’s creative spirit honors the legacy of his father, bassist-composer John Clayton. In 2016, he received a Duke University commission to render the Piedmont Blues experience in early 20th-century Durham, North Carolina; “Piedmont Blues” features a mixed-media performance that received critical acclaim. In 2019, he received a commission from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to compose a musical pendant for artist Charles White’s “Five Great American Negroes” mural; Clayton titled the project “White Cities: A Musical Tribute to Charles White.”
In January 2020, he began work on the critically acclaimed score for Sam Pollard’s award-winning documentary “MLK/FBI.” The emotional resonance of Clayton’s score imbues the film with subtle, lingering moments of struggle and humanity, and helps capture a complex arc of an enduring subject.
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