Jazz great Jeff Clayton, who performed with Sinatra, Madonna, dies at 65

Jeff Clayton, the acclaimed jazz saxophonist, flautist and bandleader who worked with such legendary artists as Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Madonna and Count Basie, died Dec. 17 in Los Angeles.
He was 65.
The cause of death was complications from kidney cancer — “a battle which Clayton valiantly fought for over two years” — according to a news release, which also says that his death was confirmed by Clayton’s brother John and longtime manager Gail Boyd.
“I am sad but buoyed by Jeff’s spirit, by recalling six decades of growth together, by the music we shared, and the knowledge that he wants us to move on, embracing and celebrating life,” says John Clayton, who is a Grammy-winning jazz bassist.
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The two Clayton brothers worked together for decades, forming the Grammy-nominated Clayton Brothers Quintet and co-founding the acclaimed Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with drummer Jeff Hamilton.
“Jeff was passionate about this music. His love, joy, perseverance and sense of humor attracted so many to him.  He had his own vision through his compositions that invited others to see that same vision. He leaves an irreplaceable void,” Hamilton says.
Clayton was an in-demand sideman who performed with an A-list of stars during his many decades in the music business, including Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle, Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton and Lena Horne.
He was also a member of the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, first under the direction of Basie and then Thad Jones.
“Jeff found joy in his playing whether it was a buoyant uptempo tune or a slow mournful ballad,” Clayton’s longtime manager Gail Boyd. “One could not help but be moved. He got as much joy from teaching others. I was blessed to represent him for the past 27 years.”
Memorial details will be announced at a later date.

 

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