“Five Minutes With” Toronto jazz artist Jim Clayton

Pianist and vocalist Jim Clayton hails from Sarnia, Ontario (Canada’s “Chemical Valley”). His childhood piano studies were mostly classical, but when his family spent two years in Louisiana in the late 1970’s, he first encountered jazz in its birthplace of New Orleans. 

After a short stint as a radio announcer and producer, Jim was accepted into Humber’s jazz program in 1991. Following an 18-month break to perform with show-bands on Princess Cruises, he returned to Humber, where he connected with the musicians with whom he would make his 1997 debut CD Muskoka. 

In 2001, Jim co-founded The Clayton/Scott Group with whom he recorded two CDs: August and So Nice. The group won critical acclaim, international radio play, TV and movie placements, and three national awards.

Jim joined The Second City as a music director in 1995. As an accompanist and improviser for sketch and improv comedy, he performed with cast members of SNL, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and SCTV, and created music for several TV comedy series and specials.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Jim and his wife, photographer and social-media maven Tracey Nolan, began making annual trips to New Orleans; his 2014 album, Songs My Daughter Knows, was recorded there, with local legends making guest appearances. Downbeat Magazine called it “warm and happy… tender and soulful,” and the album landed in the top 10 at jazz radio. His follow-up album, Lenny Jumps In, fared equally well.

Jim lives in the Danforth Village area with Tracey and their daughter Lenny, in a house with an actual white picket fence.

Jim Clayton

Name: Jim Clayton

Genre: Jazz

Founded: 1995 (first professional gigs after college)

# of Albums: Six. One as Jim Clayton’s Greenhouse, two with The Clayton/Scott Group, three as simply Jim Clayton

Latest Release:

Lenny Jumps In. It’s not super-new, but it’s still getting spins on US jazz radio, and Jazz FM has been kind to it. (Lenny’s my daughter.)

Latest Single:

Nothing commercially available yet, but I’m intent on releasing my version of  Hold On by Ian Thomas (also covered by Santana).

Latest Video:

A new five-song medley/demo (now with 100% more vocals!).

Jim Clayton, jazz piano/vocal from James Clayton on Vimeo.

Favourite Local Restaurant:

I’d have said Famous Indian on Gerrard, but I drove by the other day and it was gone! DM me recommendations for a new favourite Indian place.

Favourite band as a teenager:

J. Geils Band was up there, but I spent the most time listening to Billy Joel

Favourite band now:

“band” makes it tough. I think everyone I listen to is a solo artist… lately it’s Hod O’Brien, a relatively obscure but remarkable bebop pianist from Virginia.

Guilty Pleasure Song:

Too Much Heaven by the Bee Gees (I saw them debut it on a televised UNICEF benefit around 1977)

Live Show Ritual:

Realizing whatever it was I forgot, when I’m already halfway to the gig

Favourite local artist:

Marker Starling (Uphill Battle might be my favourite pop tunes of the decade)

Sneaky Dees nachos, pasta from Terroni or a superfood salad from Fresh? 

Nachos at Sneaky Dee’s, if they’re still half-priced on Wednesdays. (Half-priced fajitas on Tuesdays are the priority, though.)

Queen or College St?

Danforth gets no love? All right, then… Queen Street.

Trinity Bellwoods or High Park, Riverdale or Kew Gardens?

Kew Gardens. I like it there, because when I take my daughter to a park in the Beaches, I’m not the oldest dad there.

EP or LP?

LP. Why would you want less music?

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl, but with that guilt that makes you say “no, of course not” when someone phones you in the morning and asks “did I wake you?”

Road or studio?

Road, before I had a family. Now, studio, although I still get red light fever. It’s stressful to know that someone can rewind and check what you played.

Swiss Chalet or Roti?

Roti, especially that curried-chicken Christmas roti that comes with a Toblerone bar. (I may be confused, though.)

Where can we follow you?

Instagram is my fave. @jimclaytonjazz. Facebook is good (also jimclaytonjazz). Twitter is just reshares of my Insta.

Any shows or albums coming up? (What do you currently want to promote?)

Jazz brunch at Bar Hop Session (Danforth, just east of Pape) every Sunday in July. We disappear to New Orleans for August, but in September, I’ll be at the Kensington Market Jazz Festival on the 15th, and Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill on the 20th.



About Joel Levy 2550 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography