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Gerald Clayton

Gerald Clayton headshot


Gerald Clayton searches for honest expression in every note. The six-time Grammy-nominated pianist-composer and recent Blue Note artist began formal studies at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in piano performance at USC’s Thornton School of Music under the instruction of Billy Childs, following a year of intensive study with NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron at the Manhattan School of Music. In 2006, Clayton won second place in the Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition.

Clayton’s inclusive sensibilities have allowed him to collaborate 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. He currently serves as director of the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and has served as musical director for Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.

Over the years, Clayton’s playing and original works have received Grammy recognition for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Instrumental Composition, and Best Jazz Instrumental Album—a nomination he earned most recently for his debut release on Blue Note Records, "Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard."

Clayton honors the legacy of his father, bassist-composer John Clayton, and all his musical ancestors through a commitment to exploration and honesty. In 2016, he attempted to render the Piedmont blues experience and expression in early 20th-century Durham. A Duke University commission, Clayton’s evening-length composition Piedmont Blues features a mixed media performance of 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 “5 Great American Negroes” mural. Seeking to spotlight race and racial tensions, 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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