Bassist, Composer, Arranger, Educator, Artistic Director
The multiple roles in which he excels -- composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, and yes, extraordinary bassist -- garner him a number of challenging assignments and commissions. With a Grammy on his shelf and eight additional nominations, artists such as Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, and Charles Aznevour vie for a spot on his crowded calendar.
He began his bass career in elementary school playing in strings class, junior orchestra, high school jazz band, orchestra, and soul/R&B groups. In 1969, at the age of 16, he enrolled in bassist Ray Brown's jazz class at UCLA, beginning a close relationship that lasted more than three decades. After graduating from Indiana University's School of Music with a degree in bass performance in 1975, he toured with the Monty Alexander Trio (1975-77), the Count Basie Orchestra (1977-79), and settled in as principal bassist with the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam, Netherlands (1980-85). He was also a bass instructor at The Royal Conservatory, The Hague, Holland from 1980-83.
In 1985 he returned to California, co-founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, rekindled the The Clayton Brothers quintet, and taught part-time bass at Cal State Long Beach, UCLA and USC. In 1988 he joined he faculty of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he taught until 2009. Now, in addition to individual clinics, workshops, and private students as schedule permits, John also directs the educational components associated with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Centrum Festival, and Vail Jazz Party.
Career highlights include arranging the 'Star Spangled Banner for Whitney Houston's performance at Super Bowl 1990 (the recording went platinum), playing bass on Paul McCartney's CD “Kisses On The Bottom,” arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma and Friends on Songs of Joy and Peace, arranging playing and conducting the 2009 CD Charles Aznavour With the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and numerous recordings with Diana Krall, the Clayton Brothers, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander, et al.
My Jazz Story
I love jazz because...Upon first hearing it live, it made me want to DO IT, too!
I was first exposed to jazz...via my High school jazz band. Soon after, my uncle had a jazz record collection that exposed me to Miles, Trane, Wes Montgomery, Dexter Gordon, et. al.
I met Ray Brown when I was 16 years old. He taught a class at UCLA called WORKSHOP IN JAZZ BASS. I stopped my classical lessons to save the $65 it cost to enroll in his class.
The best show I ever attended is confused by the other best shows I have ever attended.
The first jazz record I bought--I honestly can't remember!
My advice to new listeners is to keep returning to the sounds you don't "understand" or can't relate to at the moment. I honestly wondered what all of the talk was about that Duke Ellington guy was! (I'm not proud of admitting that, btw.) Thank goodness I came back to him and DISCOVERED why his music is so awesome.