Gerald Clayton knew he wanted to go into the “family business” at an early age.
His father is bassist and bandleader John Clayton, a former artist in residence of the Detroit International Jazz Festival, while his uncle is woodwind player Jeff Clayton. So for the younger Clayton, who started playing piano at age 7, doing music “felt natural for me. I grew up imitating all the sounds around me ... playing by ear and just figuring out the stuff I was listening to.”
But the 26-year-old says a career in music was his choice alone.
“My dad was really supportive — both my parents were supportive, without pushing me too hard,” says Clayton, who’s worked with Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, the Clayton Brothers and others, and released the first album with his trio, “Two-Shade,” in 2009. “I just feel blessed and fortunate to have had my dad around to see the lifestyle behind the music, the love these musicians all have for one another. It seemed bigger than an occupation; it was a real lifestyle.”
Clayton also studied with his father, a professor in the University of Southern California Jazz Studies program, where the pianist earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. “I had one class with him, this rhythm section analysis class,” says Clayton, who recorded a second album, “Bond: The Paris Sessions” in France for release next year.
“It was cool. My dad’s a sort of father figure and teacher figure to a lot of people. All his students are kind of his kids, so it was not like any kind of drastic shift for me — just the same old dad in front of more people. I’m pretty sure I passed the class, too.”
Gerald Clayton performs at 6, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8-9, at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, 97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms. Cover is $20; the 10:30 shows are free. Call 313-882-5299 or visit www.dirtydogjazz.com.
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