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"Trumpets Sound for Maynard" International Musician Feature Article
September 1st, 2009 00:00
The 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," Robinson says. "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 Maynard."
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John Clayton debuts a new work rooted in Detroit jazz history at festival
August 30th, 2009 00:00

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 think otherwise."

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 festivals.

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 single.

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 East Coast.

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 the muse.

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 School.

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 degree.

"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 notes.

"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 life."

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

Fri.-Sept. 7

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

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Detroit Free Press
Detroit International Jazz Festival Announces 2009 Detroit-based Performers
June 22nd, 2009 12:15
DJF 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 Melendez.

McKinfolks: A reunion of Detroit's McKinney family and tribute to Harold McKinney -- with GayeLynn McKinney, Michelle McKinney, Carlos McKinney and Kiane Zawadi.

Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra in a world premiere of a commissioned work by John Clayton with the Clayton Brothers Quintet.

Ernie Krivda's Detroit Connection featuring Marion Hayden, Claude Black and Renell Gonsalves in a tribute to John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins.

For more information about the 2009 Lineup and more, go to

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
ITG Journal - International Trumpet Guild - ITG Journal Book Reviews
Vol. 33, No. 4
June 2009

Hession, Patrick E. - Harrison Township, MI: Author 2004.
Softcover, 77pp.

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 self-improvement.

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 trills.

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!
May 26th, 2009 00:00
Patrick 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.
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Monette 25th Anniversary Party! - Shop Concert - June 30 ~ July 2, 2008
May 26th, 2009 00:00
Night 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.

Extra Video, Rehearsal Goofs and Funny Moments...
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The 2009 Detroit Music Award Winners!
April 18th, 2009 00:00

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 Rusto.

Let the Trumpet Sound! is available at CD Baby and KGRMUSIC.COM. Check out the clips on Ken's Music Page.


Scott Gwinnell & Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra

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 Gwinnell.
"Brush Fire" is Now Available!
March 11th, 2009 09:30
The 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 arrangers.

This new album, Brush Fire, is their second album, released by WSG Records. It has met rave reviews so far. Read the Review!

Recent highlights of the Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra include:

A performance at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference with saxophonist, Dave Liebman.

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.
Brush Fire

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