The Artistry of… Gerald Clayton

Imagine coming from a music-making family with an artistic universe that has orbited the artistry of the likes of your father and uncle, the springboards of influence, then being connected to some of the best by default and virtue of — artists like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Queen Latifah, Nancy Wilson, Diana Krall, Ray Charles and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Imagine being the recipient of gracious praise from your new label’s boss Don Was, president of Blue Note.

“Gerald Clayton is one of the most accomplished, distinctive and innovative pianists performing today,” Was said. “His solo work is characterized by his imaginative curiosity and harmonic mastery … We are thrilled to welcome him to the Blue Note family.”

Clayton plays with honesty, sensitivity, respect and sharp focus. This line from Blue Note’s welcome blurb says it all: “Capturing the truth in each moment’s conception of sound comes naturally to Clayton.” He knows where and what he comes from and who has been there to influence and nurture along the way.

I was lucky enough to meet him after a 4 By Monk By 4 performance. He is humble and a gentleman. The seeming quietude belies the greatness of his artistry.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.