Clayton Brothers Celebrate Bassist Ray Brown

Hear the Siblings Perform at the University of Michigan Jazz Festival


  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Set List

  • "Wild Man" (Jeff Clayton)
  • "The Big Daddy Adderleys" (Jeff Clayton)
  • "Bass Face" (Kenny Burrell)
  • "Jive Samba" (Nat Adderley)
  • "The Jones Brothers" (Jeff Clayton)


  • Jeff Clayton: alto sax
  • Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet
  • Gerald Clayton: piano
  • John Clayton: bass
  • Obed Calvaire: drums

On Improvisation

  • The Clayton Brothers Quintet gave a master class at the University of Michigan. Here are two clips they answer about the nature of improvisation.
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Meditation for Ray Brown

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
Clayton Brothers (300)

John Clayton (left) and Jeff Clayton. courtesy of the artists hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artists

John and Jeff Clayton are two of the most soulful, swinging siblings on the planet. As youngsters in Venice, Calif., they loved their mother's church music, but also mined their uncle's jazz collection for albums by Les McCann, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and the Adderley Brothers.

Both Clayton Brothers served apprenticeships with the Count Basie Orchestra. Then in 1978, they formed their own group, thrilling audiences with their unstoppable rhythms and joyful sound ever since. In 1985, with drummer Jeff Hamilton, they created the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, one of the hardest-swinging big bands of our day.

Pianist Gerald Clayton is the son of John and star of his own JazzSetin 2008. Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos is a member of the CHJO and, prior to that, the 1990s youth band Black Note. Drummer Obed Calvaire works with Gerald Clayton and vocalist Lizz Wright.

The Clayton Brothers' new project is music by and for the Jones Brothers — Hank, Thad and Elvin — and the Adderleys — Nat and Cannonball. This concert includes some premieres.

Prior to performing, John and Jeff answered questions from local high-school and college students. They gave helpful advice, including tips on auditions. Jeff told students to over-prepare, because your nerves make you lose 30 percent of what you know, before you even play a note. John said that everything should be a performance, even a practice session.

Together, they explained that you learn to improvise by training and listening to your own internal musician, your own voice. Click on the audio links (left) to hear their comments.

About Ray Brown

Every year, the U of M Jazz Festival honors a musician from an earlier era. In 2008, it was bassist Ray Brown (1926-2002), who stepped into jazz in the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band in the 1940s. Through the '50s, he toured the U.S. and Europe with the exuberant Jazz at the Philharmonic ensembles. He spent 15 years anchoring the classic Oscar Peterson Trio. For the last two decades, Brown led his own trios, featuring younger musicians eager to learn from the master. When he died in 2002, at age 75, the music world mourned the man whose ever-steady pulse served as the heartbeat of jazz. John Clayton was his protege.

John and five U of M faculty members played John Clayton's "P-ray Lude," a meditation for Ray Brown. It's a web extra.

Originally recorded Feb. 9, 2008, at the University of Michigan Jazz Festival.

Thanks to Our Co-Producer

The University of Michigan School of Music, with funding from the Martin Luther King/Cesar Chavez/Rosa Parks Visiting Professorship. The University of Michigan Jazz Festival is created and directed by professor Dennis Wilson, with professor Ellen Rowe, chair of the Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation.


Biographical text by Mark Schramm. Music recording and remix in Surround Sound by Duke Markos. Dee Dee Bridgewater's audio engineer is Ginger Bruner at KUNV Las Vegas. Producer Becca Pulliam and executive producer Thurston Briscoe III are at WBGO Jazz 88 in Newark, N.J., and



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.