Signing Story: Gerald Clayton

The son of Grammy winning jazz bassist John Clayton, Gerald Clayton grew up listening to what he considers “some of the best records ever made” by artists on the famed roster of the iconic Blue Note label. Eleven years and four Grammy nominations since releasing his debut album Two-Shade on ArtistShare, the internet’s first crowdfunding website, the veteran composer and pianist has joined the Blue Note family.

Perhaps now ironically as it will drop in the midst of this new era of social distancing, Clayton’s first label release is a yet-to-be-titled live album of an April 2019 performance at the Village Vanguard with his quintet of Logan Richardson (alto sax), Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Joe Sanders (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums).

“Doing a live recording is something I have been passionate about for a long time,” says Clayton, a second-place finisher at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition whose most recent studio recording was Tributary Tales on the Motema label. “With all the cell phone recording going on, I’ve noticed a shift in the dynamic between artists and fans. I prefer the old way where people simply listened in the moment. I’m hoping that what may come out of this pandemic is people better valuing our ability to gather and surround ourselves with loved ones. This album is testament to that aesthetic.”

Blue Note President Don Was had been hip to Clayton for years, attending many of his headlining performances and those of famed saxophonist-flutist (and Blue Note artist) Charles Lloyd, for whom Clayton has been a longtime sideman. They started talking more seriously about him signing after Was attended the opening at LACMA of an exhibit of the works of influential visual artist, teacher and activist Charles White. Clayton was commissioned to do a musical tribute (“White Cities”) to accompany the display.

“Don has always been super-kind and supportive of my career,” Clayton says. “In recent times, he would approach me about the possibility of working with him and the label. It was all a matter of perfect timing. Considering its legacy, it is a great honor to join the Blue Note family. I’m excited and inspired to fly the Blue Note flag along my artistic journey. But it’s not just about the label I’m on. Like I tell my students, the goal is always to express yourself with honesty and clarity.”

Date Signed: December 2019

Label: Blue Note Records

Type of Music: Jazz

Management: Chris Mees - B Natural, Inc.

Booking: Chris Mees - B Natural, Inc.

Legal: Roger L. Cramer, Esq.

Publicity: Cem Kurosman - Blue Note Records

Website: geraldclayton.com

A&R: Don Was - Blue Note Records