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Loyola Honors New Orleans Jazz Roots with 49th Annual Jazz Ensemble Festival

Loyola press release - January 11, 2018

Loyola University New Orleans will host the 49th annual Jazz Ensemble Festival the weekend of March 2-3, featuring renowned bassist, band leader, and arranger John Clayton. Student ensembles of all ages will be in attendance to observe performances, participate in masterclasses for their instruments, and ultimately give their own performances.

On Friday, March 2 at 4:30 p.m. the Loyola Faculty Jazz Septet will give a free concert open to the public. On Saturday, March 3 at 4:30 p.m., John Clayton will perform with the Loyola Jazz Ensemble. Tickets for Saturday’s performance are $10 for general admission, $5 for Loyola students, faculty and staff and may be purchased online through presents.loyno.edu, by emailing tickets@loyno.edu, by calling the Loyola Box Office at (504) 865-2074.

Performances both days will take place in the Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall located in the Music/Communications Complex at the corner of Calhoun Street and St. Charles Avenue. Free parking is available in the West Road Garage, which is accessible from St. Charles Avenue.

“John Clayton is a great fit for Loyola and for the festival because he’s just a fantastic virtuosic bass player,” said Gordon Towell, festival director and coordinator of jazz studies. “He’s an excellent communicator of the art form—concise about how to play it with a relaxed personality that gets people excited about learning.”

The Jazz Ensemble Festival is the oldest ongoing educational jazz festival in Louisiana. Last year, the festival had more than 500 students participating among the 27 school jazz bands and combos that registered for the festival.

“It’s a truly special event for this campus to host because it brings in local musicians from around our area and also bands from across the country,” said Towell. “The festival has a real draw and a great reputation.”

The Loyola University Jazz Ensemble Festival is open to large or small ensembles from elementary through college levels. A panel of four expert musician/educators will adjudicate the student groups offering constructive criticism on performance techniques. Student bands perform for adjudication every half hour until 4:30 p.m. and their sessions are free and open to the public.

Free masterclasses for all instruments are included for student ensemble participants each day, taught this year by Clayton and the Loyola Jazz Faculty.

“John Clayton is a natural born multitasker,” reads his professional bio. “The multiple roles in which he excels -- composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, and yes, extraordinary bassist -- garner him a number of challenging assignments and commissions.”

Clayton has a Grammy on his shelf along with nine additional nominations. He began his bass career in elementary school playing in strings class, junior orchestra, high school jazz band, orchestra, and soul/R&B groups. At 16, he enrolled in bassist Ray Brown's jazz class at UCLA, beginning a close relationship that lasted more than three decades. After earning a degree in bass performance in 1975, he toured with the Monty Alexander Trio (1975-77), the Count Basie Orchestra (1977-79), and settled in as principal bassist with the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam, Netherlands (1980-85). In 1985 he returned to California, co-founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, rekindled The Clayton Brothers quintet, and taught part-time bass at Cal State Long Beach, UCLA and USC. In 1988, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he taught until 2009.

Now, in addition to individual clinics, workshops, and private students, Clayton also directs the educational components associated with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Centrum Festival, and Vail Jazz Party. Career highlights include arranging the 'Star Spangled Banner" for Whitney Houston's performance at Super Bowl 1990 (the recording went platinum), playing bass on Paul McCartney's CD “Kisses On The Bottom,” arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma and Friends on "Songs of Joy and Peace," and arranging playing and conducting the 2009 CD "Charles Aznavour With the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra," and numerous recordings with Diana Krall, the Clayton Brothers, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander and many others.

Learn more about the Loyola University New Orleans School of Music here and the Jazz Studies Department here.

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