The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton and Jeff Clayton founded the CHJO in 1986. The two young men, John and Jeff Hamilton, had played together with Monty Alexander then gone their separate ways, reuniting in Los Angeles to found the band. Brother Jeff Clayton, who had been living and working in Los Angeles all along, came on board to help put the band together. John explains, "He knew all the best players in the city and how compatible they were musically and personality-wise."
It's all about the music and the camaraderie. In addition to technical instrumental prowess and excellent jazzmanship, the primary criteria for choosing band members is dedication. The love of the music and the love of the 'band-family' must be the motivation and anyone who thinks this is just a gig need not apply. A number of renowned jazz artists have been a part of this musical family including George Bohanon, Oscar Brashear, Bobby Bryant, Al McKibbon, Charles Owens, Andy Simpkins, Gerald Wiggins, Ricky Woodard, and Snooky Young.
While typical in configuration (19 pieces: 4 rhythm, 5 saxophones, 4 trombones, 5 trumpets, and John as bass soloist/conductor), the music is anything but typical, and that's what keeps the band members and the audiences enamored. Songs are composed and arranged for the band through self motivation, commissions and recording assignments. "The Hollywood Bowl may be interested in a premier work; Diana Krall may want to record with the band; Jeff Hamilton may suggest a feature for someone in the band. These are all normal ways that allow the band’s repertoire to grow," explains John.
The unique sounds of the CHJO, which are both swinging and sophisticated, have been captured on their six CDs to date:
Groove Shop (Capri, 1990) *Grammy nominated*
Heart And Soul (Capri, 1994)
Absolutely (Lake Street, 1994/95),
Shout Me Out (Fable/Lightyear, 2000)
Live At MCG (MCG Jazz, 2005)
"Explosive: Milt Jackson Meets the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra" (Qwest, 2010)
They can also be heard on records with:
Ernestine Anderson (Boogie Down: Ernestine Anderson with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Concord, 1990)
Charles Aznavour with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (EMI France, 2009).
Gladys Knight (Before Me, Verve, 2006),
Diana Krall (Christmas Songs, Verve, 2005; From This Moment On, Verve, 2006; and a not-yet-released project coming soon)
John Pizzarelli (Dear Mr. Sinatra, Telarc, 2006),