Grammy Award Winner to Perform with VSU Jazz Ensemble

November 29, 2011

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Grammy Award Winner to Perform with VSU Jazz Ensemble


VALDOSTA -- A Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer, and conductor will perform with the Valdosta State University Jazz Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Whitehead Auditorium.

John Clayton is known for the patience he exhibits with his students, the provocative notes he chooses when he composes, the empathy he shows when he produces, and the scintillating sounds he coaxes from musicians when he conducts. However, all of that reportedly pales in comparison to his charisma when music enthusiasts get the chance to hear him swing. Those in the jazz industry, including Quincy Jones and Tommy Lipuma, frequently request his talents.

Clayton has written and arranged music for Diana Krall, DeeDee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, Milt Jackson, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Gladys Knight, Regina Carter, Queen Latifah, and others. He has served as artistic and musical director of various jazz organizations, workshops, and festivals, and he has received a number of awards and honors, including a platinum record for his arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Whitney Houston during the Super Bowl in 1990.

At age 16, Clayton began seriously studying the double bass under Ray Brown, who was a leader in defining the modern jazz rhythm section. Three years later, Clayton was the bassist for Henry Mancini’s television series “The Mancini Generation.” He graduated from Indiana University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Music in Double Bass, toured with Monty Alexander and the Count Basie Orchestra, and held the principal bass position in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra for more than five years.

“The VSU Jazz Ensemble is very excited to have John Clayton as a guest,” said David Springfield, director of jazz studies and assistant professor of jazz piano in the Department of Music. “He is a true jazz legend who is at the top of his field as a bass player, composer, and band leader. It will be a great learning experience for the students to work with a real professional who can give them an idea of what musical situations are like in the ‘real world.’”

The performance, which is free and open to the public, will feature pieces composed or arranged by Clayton. Springfield said the pieces were originally written for and recorded by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which is regarded as one of the top professional jazz ensembles in the world.

“We will also perform his arrangements of some familiar tunes [such as] ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street,’ ‘For All We Know,’ and a medley by … film composer Johnny Mandel,” he added. “We hope everyone can join us for what should be an exciting event.”

The VSU Jazz Ensemble performs at least four concerts per year on campus with a repertoire ranging from Big Band Era standards to contemporary styles and original jazz compositions. It is directed by Springfield.

For more information about John Clayton, visit

For more information about the VSU Jazz Ensemble or the upcoming performance, please contact David Springfield, director of jazz studies and assistant professor of jazz piano in the Department of Music, at (229) 333-5805 or