"Trumpets Sound for Maynard" International Musician
September 1st, 2009 00:00
International Musician, the official journal of the
American Federation of Musicians, has published a
feature article about Ken's CD Let the Trumpet Sound! in
the September 2009 issue. The article is mentioned on
the front cover as "Trumpets Sound for Maynard" and
is in the "Upbeat" section titled "Detroit Musician
Assembles All-Star Team to Honor a Legend." It talks
about the people involved, some of the material, the
place as well as some of the challenges that took
place in the making of the album.
"I really wanted to do something special and
different that would include my best friend Patrick
Hession [of Local 5], who was very close to Maynard,"
"So, I got the idea to put a loose arrangement of
'Caruso' on the album as sort of a requiem to a
legend." The song was later titled "Farewell
View full Article
John Clayton debuts a new work rooted in Detroit jazz
history at festival
August 30th, 2009 00:00
DETROIT FREE PRESS MUSIC WRITER
John Clayton leads the Scott Gwinnell
Jazz Orchestra of Detroit through a recent rehearsal
at the Detroit Institute of Arts. (REGINA H.
BOONE/Detroit Free Press)
John Clayton is a large, handsome man, with an
athletic, 6-foot-4-inch frame, dignified carriage and
massive hands that seem engineered specifically for
the double bass. He also has one of the great smiles
in jazz. When he strikes a groove, walking a blues
line on his bass or conducting one of his natty
arrangements in front of a big band, Clayton's
ultrabrights spread across his dimpled face like an
invitation to a party.
He had a full house feeling the spirit at Cliff
Bell's in downtown Detroit two weeks ago on the eve
of his 57th birthday. Clayton, artist-in-residence at
the 2009 Detroit International Jazz Festival, was
presiding over an open dress rehearsal of the
ambitious 30-minute commission he has written for the
30th annual festival, which opens Friday.
Titled "T.H.E. Family, Detroit," the piece honors the
Pontiac-bred jazz legends Thad, Hank and Elvin Jones,
with a nod to the downtown Guardian Building, whose
art deco grandeur provides a metaphor for Detroit's
golden age of jazz. The suite, scored for the Clayton
Brothers Quintet and the 18-piece Scott Gwinnell
Jazz Orchestra of Detroit, will have its official
premiere on Labor Day at Hart Plaza.
Clayton counted off the band with a flourish,
inaugurating a souped-up Motown boogaloo with a
basement churn of baritone sax, bass, guitar and
piano and a dense, brassy strut -- the "Guardian
Fanfare." Gwinnell stepped in to conduct and Clayton
dashed to the corner of the stage. He picked up his
bass and -- bam! -- the quintet sprinted into a
swinging, minor-key theme. Clayton smiled, and the
club smiled back.
"I'm a conduit," Clayton said before the rehearsal.
"I don't feel I'm capable of creating what people
think I'm capable of creating. It comes from another
source, be it the universe, God, a tree, a Cadillac,
a woman, whatever. You're kidding yourself if you
A consummate pro, Clayton has mastered just about
every facet of the jazz life. Based in his native Los
Angeles, he's a first-call bassist who cut his teeth
with pianist Monty Alexander and Count Basie in the
'70s and whose calling cards remain a swinging pulse,
bear-hug tone, impeccable diction and taste and an
infectious spirit he channels from his mentor, the
late Ray Brown.
On another front, he's the charismatic chief
composer-arranger for the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz
Orchestra, one of the top big bands in jazz, which he
leads with his brother Jeff, an alto saxophonist, and
drummer Jeff Hamilton. Clayton is a Grammy
Award-winning arranger who has written for Diana
Krall, Queen Latifah and many others, and he's a
noted jazz educator and a top administrator at jazz
He even had his own, albeit anonymous, pop culture
moment, writing the orchestral arrangement of the
National Anthem sung by Whitney Houston at the 1991
Super Bowl during the Gulf War, a performance that
became a Top 20 hit when it was released as a
Still, it has been easy for critics and others to
take Clayton for granted, partly because standard
bearers for mainstream values like Clayton don't get
the ink of cutting-edge innovators and partly because
the jazz press has always been biased in favor of the
But make no mistake: Clayton's musicianship takes a
back seat to no one's, and his Zen-like focus,
intelligence, humility, generosity and decency in an
industry that often rewards the opposite have earned
him universal respect among his peers.
"He makes you feel like the most important person in
the world in his presence," said Hamilton. "You walk
out of a meeting feeling like he treated you with the
utmost respect and heard everything you said and
feeling really good about yourself -- even though
later you might realize that he didn't agree with
anything you said! But he was a gentleman."
At peace with life and art
Clayton speaks in a resonant baritone, his easy humor
and sincerity suggesting a man at peace with his life
and art. He lives with his Dutch-born wife, Tineke
Scholten, a linguist, in Altadena at the foot of the
San Gabriel Mountains. When he's working on a piece,
he likes to take hikes to clear his head and entice
Clayton met his wife in the Netherlands on tour in
the '70s, and when he left Basie in 1979, they
settled in Utrecht, where Clayton made his living as
principal bassist of the Amsterdam Philharmonic while
also playing jazz. The family moved to Los Angeles in
1984. Today the Claytons are empty nesters, with a
son, Gerald, 25, making a splash as a jazz pianist
and an older daughter studying at Harvard Law
Clayton maintains his relaxed countenance when he
plays, though he grows more visibly intense when he
steps in front of a big band. His shoulders sway back
and forth to the beat, he leans in to cue the
saxophones, sings along and gestures broadly and
expressively; his wingspan seems to stretch across
the entire stage.
His rehearsal manner is direct, detailed, polite and
encouraging but firmly in command. "Let's make sure
we cut off our chords together," he told Gwinnell's
band after a sloppy passage during a rehearsal at the
Detroit Institute of Arts in June. "No hangover. Then
you get a wall of sound with no jagged edges."
Aggravations that might drive others over the brink
barely raise his temperature. At the DIA, a young
sound engineer with an attitude refused to follow
Clayton's instructions for miking his bass. Clayton
kept repeating his request, subtly increasing
pressure without raising his voice or escalating the
confrontation until the engineer surrendered.
"I don't do stress," Clayton said. "Stress is a
choice. I don't want an accelerated heart rate."
Jeff Clayton said his brother's personality was
forged as the eldest of seven children raised by a
single mother: You learn to be organized when you
have to help iron three dresses, make six lunches and
get the entire posse off to school. The Claytons'
mother worked at the post office, cleaned houses,
played piano and organ in church and directed the
choirs, oversaw the renovation of a house and took
classes for years in her spare time to get a college
"She was amazing, and by example very clear, focused
and pragmatic," said Jeff Clayton.
'The joy of discovery'
Clayton's career as a composer-arranger traced a very
different arc than his development as a bassist. He
picked up the bass at 13, began playing gigs in high
school and studied formally with classical teachers
and Ray Brown, a seminal bebop bassist, before
attending Indiana University.
Clayton didn't begin to seriously pursue composing
and arranging until his two years with Basie
beginning in 1977. Largely self-taught, he learned
the old-fashioned way: by embarrassing himself. "I'd
write something, bring it in, think I knew what I was
doing, discover I didn't and go back to the drawing
board," he said.
His first arrangement was a muddy mess. "It sucked,"
said Clayton, laughing. Then he transcribed Neal
Hefti's "Splanky" from a Basie LP. The roaring shout
chorus was a tutorial. Among other details, Clayton
discovered that the lead trumpet, lead trombone and
lead alto saxophone all were playing the same
"That's where I learned the power of the triple
lead," he said. "I didn't read about it in a book.
That's one of the things I try to do as a teacher. I
don't give students the answers. I try to allow them
to experience the joy of discovery. When you find out
something for yourself, you don't forget it for
Clayton's second arrangement was an original song
called "Blues for Stephanie," a groove maker with a
curlicue saxophone melody and driving shout chorus
that fit Basie like a custom suit. During the first
run-through, players tapped their feet, and at the
end Basie uttered his highest praise: "Let's do that
one more time."
Clayton's vocabulary remains deeply rooted in
tradition. Like Basie's stable of arrangers, he loves
blues forms and contrasting dynamics and builds swing
into his charts via punchy rhythms and riffs. Like
Thad Jones, who wrote for Basie before pursuing a
more modern idiom, Clayton uncoils complex,
astringent harmonies through the ensemble and puffs
his chest with peacock bravura. Like Duke Ellington,
Clayton writes for individuals, not instruments -- so
much so that when players retire or leave his band,
Clayton retires arrangements written for them.
Along the way, he sought out elders for lessons,
including ex-Basie-ite Frank Foster and Hollywood
giant Johnny Mandel, who warned against writing at
the piano. "When you sit at the piano, you end up
playing the piano," said Mandel. "People don't sing
hip chord changes. They sing melodies."
Above all, Clayton's writing is defined by clarity,
honest emotionalism and a meticulous craftsmanship
that at its most inspired turns regal and sublime.
Sophisticated, yes. Cerebral, no.
"John isn't writing to show off himself, he's writing
to show off the band," said Dennis Wilson, a
trombonist and composer-arranger who played with
Clayton in the Basie band and now teaches at the
University of Michigan. "He's not trying to show that
he's a great arranger -- although he is."
Back at Cliff Bell's, the restored art deco club in
Foxtown, Clayton celebrated the maiden voyage of his
suite with a post-performance bottle of
Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Wine has been a
passion since his band mates in Diana Krall's group
introduced him to its pleasures on a plane bound for
Paris in 2001.
Clayton's smile beckoned. He greeted well-wishers at
the back of the club, looking each in the eye and
giving each their moment. He refilled friends'
glasses and delved into conversation, traversing
classical music performance styles, criticism, the
endless quest to master composition and what, for
him, is the ultimate payoff.
"I don't get goose bumps when I write," he said. "I
get goose bumps when I hear what the musicians do
with what I've written."
30th annual Detroit International Jazz Festival
Hart Plaza, Woodward Corridor, Campus Martius,
Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit
The Clayton Brothers Quintet and Scott Gwinnell
Jazz Orchestra's performance will include the
premiere of John Clayton's "T.H.E. Family, Detroit"
at 8:30 p.m. Mon., Carhartt Amphitheatre
John Clayton also appears with fellow bassists
Christian McBride and Rodney Whitaker at 6 p.m. Mon.,
Mack Avenue Pyramid Stage
Contact MARK STRYKER: 313-222-6459 or
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updated March 2009.
Detroit Free Press
Detroit International Jazz Festival Announces 2009
June 22nd, 2009 12:15
Announces 2009 Detroit-based Performers
The Detroit Jazz Fest is pleased to announce the '09
lineup of Detroit-based artists who will be
performing on Labor Day Weekend.
This year's lineup includes Johnny O'Neal, Marcus
Belgrave, Dennis Coffey Quartet, Straight Ahead,
Global Jazz Project, Dave Bennett Quartet, Sheila
Jordan & Tad Weed Trio, Wendell Harrison's
Detroit Swing Ensemble, Measured Chaos, Jesse Palter
Quartet, Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents,
Carolyn Striho-Rayse Biggs Project, Scott Gwinnell
Jazz Orchestra, T Money Green's Road Work, The Clark
Sisters, and the Northwestern High School 1980 Alumni
Band -- one of the first Detroit
high school bands to play the festival and perform in
Switzerland (as part of the Montreux-Detroit
International Jazz Festival) 30 years ago.
In addition, many of Detroit's finest musicians will
be featured in the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. And
guitarist Perry Hughes and pianist Rick Roe will
perform in a re-creation of Donald Byrd's Blue Note
gospel-jazz recording, A New Perspective.
In keeping with a recent tradition, we are also
presenting several special projects, including:
Lyman Woodard Tribute Organization directed by
Leonard King Jr., and Ron English: A salute to
Detroit legend Lyman Woodard, led by Leonard King and
Ron English and featuring Chris Codish, Dwight Adams,
Cornelius "JuJu" Johnson, Steve Hunter and Diego
McKinfolks: A reunion of Detroit's McKinney family
and tribute to Harold McKinney --
with GayeLynn McKinney, Michelle McKinney, Carlos
McKinney and Kiane Zawadi.
Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra in a world premiere of a
commissioned work by John Clayton with the Clayton
Ernie Krivda's Detroit Connection featuring Marion
Hayden, Claude Black and Renell Gonsalves in a
tribute to John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Sonny
For more information about the 2009 Lineup and more,
go to www.detroitjazzfest.com.
Supporters of the Detroit International Jazz Festival
(DJF) include Chase, Mack Avenue Records, Carhartt
Clothing Company, the Joyce Foundation, the Kresge
Foundation, Absopure, DTE Energy Foundation, Whole
Foods, Wayne County, Fox 2, the Michigan Council on
Arts & Cultural Affairs and the National
Endowment for the Arts. With an annual attendance of
750,000, DJF contributes approximately $90 million to
the local economy.
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ITG Journal - International Trumpet Guild review of
the HESSION'S SESSIONS Guide!
June 1st, 2009 00:00
Journal - International Trumpet Guild - ITG Journal
Vol. 33, No. 4
Hession, Patrick E. - Harrison Township, MI: Author
Most noted for his extensive work as lead trumpet for
Maynard Ferguson, Patrick Hession developed his
formidable abilities through years of playing in the
UNLV Jazz Ensemble, Las Vegas show bands, cruise ship
bands, and the bands of Lionel Hampton and Glenn
Miller. This book contains lessons and exercises that
he has developed in a continual pursuit of
Before delving into exercises, Hession writes about
his approach to music and identifies some key issues
with regard to playing in the upper register on the
trumpet. The tone of Hession's writing is very
informal, almost conversational. His approach is
mindful of both the physical and mental components
necessary for success. More specifically, he
discusses trumpet players as both artists and
athletes, with the idea that each day should bring
the player closer to his or her goals.
Hession also emphasizes the importance of maintaining
focus while practicing and performing. He refers to
being "in the zone" and playing with 100 percent
concentration for each note. The importance of air is
also discussed at length, with an emphasis on
efficient breathing and a supported air flow.
Hession developed the 25 original exercises contained
in this book through his practice and preparation in
the professional world. The first exercises address
breathing, pedal tones, and relaxation. From there,
further exercises use chromatics and lip slurs to
emphasize the importance of using air properly to
produce sound. Centering pitch and tone are also
covered. As the book progresses, Hession frequently
revisits exercises that are intended to refocus and
relax the player. Some of the later exercises address
controlling the air stream, glissandos, and lip
Overall, Hession's book presents a very broad and
developed mental approach to the upper register. It
does not espouse a "one size fits all" mentality, but
rather encourages persistence, focus, and an emphasis
on the basics of trumpet playing. If there are two
points that Hession is insistent upon, they are that
both airflow and focus are crucial to success on the
trumpet. This book does not claim to make you a lead
trumpet player overnight, but it does give you some
great insight into the mind and methods of a great
lead trumpet player. When played according to
Hession's instructions, I found these exercises to be
very beneficial. (Ben Peterson,
trumpeter. USAF Band of Mid-America)
Buy The Guide!
PATRICK HESSION... TRUMPET PLAYER! - A Dave Monette
May 26th, 2009 00:00
Hession had a stunning intuition the first time he
heard Maynard Ferguson play. Even at that early age,
he intuitively knew he would play the lead book on
Maynard's band - and even more, that he would be
Maynard's last lead player. That powerful psychic
glimpse of the future helped propel Patrick into a
career most lead trumpet players have only
experienced in their dreams.
Watch the Interview!
Monette 25th Anniversary Party! - Shop Concert - June
30 ~ July 2, 2008
May 26th, 2009 00:00
one opened with a piece titled "Fanfare for Dave",
written by trumpeter Phil Snedecor. The fanfare
covered most of the notes playable on the trumpet and
then some. It starts on a concert F below the staff
and ended on a D above double high C on the Bb
trumpet. Let me tell you it was a kick to play with
these guys. I (Mike Thompson) played the low part on
my Prana 1 C, Urban Agnas on part 3 playing his Prana
LT C, Charlie Schlueter on the top C trumpet part
playing his Raja Samadhi and Patrick Hession burning
the 8va part on his MF Prana.
Day 1 - Part
1 of 3
Patrick Hession shows us that he can play with
control and a beautiful sound in all registers of the
trumpet, low, middle, high and OMG!
Day 2 - Part
2 of 6 (8:52)
The night ended with an all-star jam including the
Gary Hobbs Trio and trumpeters Adam Rapa, Patrick
Hession, Urban Agnas, Marlon Jordan and Antoine Drye.
The place caught fire and burnt down.
Day 2 - Part
5 of 6
Day 2 - Part
6 of 6
Here are some informal moments during the three days
of rehearsals, plus performers being witty, funny and
sometimes just plain goofy for the camera. Included
is video of Ron Miles playing his SATTVA informally
for Wynton just before Wynton's concert.
Rehearsal Goofs and Funny Moments...
View All of the Videos!
The 2009 Detroit Music Award Winners!
April 18th, 2009 00:00
CLASSICAL RECORDING & OUTSTANDING CLASSICAL SMALL
Let the Trumpet
Sound! - Kenneth Robinson, Dave
Wagner & Special Guests - Arturo Sandoval, Adolph
Herseth, Charles Schlueter, Patrick Hession, Walter
White, Randall Hawes, John Rutherford, Michael
McGowan, Brian Moon, John Davidson and Luis
Let the Trumpet
Sound! is available at CD Baby and KGRMUSIC.COM. Check out
the clips on Ken's Music Page.
OUTSTANDING JAZZ COMPOSER & OUTSTANDING
TRADITIONAL JAZZ ARTIST/GROUP:
Gwinnell & Scott Gwinnell
Patrick plays 2nd trumpet on the Sonata "Sancti
Polycarpi" for 8 trumpets, timpani, 2 trombones and
organ by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber" and 5th trumpet
- solo trumpet on "Farewell Maynard" on the recording
and is the lead trumpet player for Scott
2009 DETROIT MUSIC AWARDS WINNERS LIST!
"Brush Fire" is Now Available!
March 11th, 2009 09:30
16 piece, award-winning, internationally-acclaimed,
Detroit-based Scott Gwinnell
Jazz Orchestra is a modern-jazz ensemble that
performs original compositions and arrangements by
their leader Scott Gwinnell and other creative
This new album, Brush Fire, is their second album,
released by WSG Records. It has met rave reviews so
far. Read the
Recent highlights of the Scott Gwinnell Jazz
A performance at the International Association of
Jazz Educators Conference with saxophonist, Dave
Performances at Cliff Bells with trumpeter Dominick
Farinacci, and vocalist Aria Hendricks.
Awards and nominations from Detroit Music Awards in
2007, 08, and 09.
Upcoming performance with bassist, John Clayton, at
the Detroit Jazz Festival.