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Remembering Buck Clayton (2018)

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Buck Clayton Photo Exclusives

In recent years, these photos of Clayton in Basel and Bern, Switzerland (1949 and 1960) have become available.

Probably Switzerland, 1949.


Clayton was a welcome guest at Chikito Club in Basel with the Bill Coleman Orchestra, 1949.


At Chikito jamming with Glyn Paque (alto sax) and Merrill Stepter (trumpet), 1949.


Probably Berne, 1960.


Buck Bern 1960


Buck and Humph, 1964-66

Clayton and Lyttelton, mid-1960s.

Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008), who was the predominant British jazz trumpeter of the 1950s and ‘60s, invited Clayton to join him in England, touring and making records. At this time, Lyttelton was playing in the Count Basie style. The 1965 tour was a Kansas City Jazz Show, a Swing revival starring Buck Clayton, Ben Webster (tenor sax), Vic Dickenson (trombone) and blues shouters Big Joe Turner or Jimmy Rushing.

Buck and Humphrey became fast friends. Over the course of several tours they had, “a ball blowing together.” In memoirs, each noted their friendly on-stage trumpet rivalry they called “the wrestler’s tricks,” strategies for gaining a competitive edge, faking-out or sneaking up on each another.

Clayton dedicated an entire chapter of his autobiography to the years with Lyttelton, declaring they were “trumpet brothers.” Buck recounted his delight at racing through the rolling English countryside in Humphrey’s sports car, stopping at roadside pubs for meat pies and ale.

7) LYTTELTON and CLAYTON Wrestler’s Tricks, One for Buck.mp3


Humph and Buck jam


1980s Coda

In the 1980s, Clayton lived in New York City and wrote his autobiographical memoir. He taught at Hunter College, CUNY and toured Europe again in 1983. His composing skills came to fruition anew with the Buck Clayton Swing Orchestra for which he wrote dozens of tunes and arrangements. Clayton died in 1991 about a month after his 80th birthday.

8) CLAYTON’S STYLE Topsy, 1967.mp3

Claytonia CD cover


Claytonia, The Buck Clayton Legacy Band, BBC Radio 3, BCLB001 

I can heartily recommend this brilliant realization of Clayton’s later writing and arranging. It’s a collaboration co-lead by Matthias Seuffert (tenor sax, clarinet) and Alyn Shipton (bass). Shipton befriended Clayton in the process of editing his autobiography for publication and was subsequently gifted a large trove of arrangements. Seuffert built their scores and charts from Buck’s original lead sheets and parts.

The band’s premier at the 2003 Ascona, Switzerland jazz festival deeply impressed this observer. Gathering a few times a year, the nine piece international ensemble is a celebration of Clayton’s gifts. Balancing clear writing, spare arranging and hot solos, this dynamic jazz festival recording and performance are musically and sonically superior to your typical audiophile swing band title.


Buckjacket Blue


Farewell To A Well-Dressed Cat

Trumpet player Buck Clayton first gained recognition as a key soloist and foundational component of the Count Basie Orchestra and related Kansas City small groups. Today, he’s recognized in his own right as a music director, bandleader, arranger and composer. His sensitive 1937-39 backing for Billie Holiday remains an exemplar of horn accompaniment for jazz singer.

This dapper all-around musician proved an original, sensitive and durable voice of jazz. He sustained a creative and cooperative outlook embracing and resynthesizing old and new with modesty and grace. Buck Clayton’s subtle musical textures are woven into the fabric of mid-20th Century American popular music.

The story of classic jazz continues at the JAZZ RHYTHM website:

Clayton and friends photographed at MOMA NYC by the late Mili Rosenblatt.


Buck Clayton

Billie Holiday

Humphrey Lyttelton

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