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Gerald Clayton on Two New Projects

The pianist connects his present to a larger cultural past

Gerald Clayton (photo courtesy of the artist)
Gerald Clayton (photo courtesy of the artist)

At just 33, Gerald Clayton is no stranger to exploring the roots of jazz. He was a toddler when he first accompanied his father, bassist John Clayton, to gigs around Los Angeles, and later joined John and his brother, saxophonist Jeff, as the pianist in the fiery hard-bop unit the Clayton Brothers.

Clayton recently was commissioned by Duke Performances to compose “Piedmont Blues,” an ambitious interdisciplinary work combining music, dance and film, all in service of paying tribute to that culturally rich area comprising much of the Carolinas and Virginia. The work has been staged at several major performing arts centers and festivals, and it features an eight-piece band plus singer René Marie, dancer Maurice Chestnut and a gospel choir.

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