5 Drummerszone artists - Clayton "the Brushmaster" Cameron

Clayton "the Brushmaster" Cameron
United States
When bebop innovator / drummer Max Roach met Clayton Cameron, aka the Brush Master, he commented, "Clayton is a genius!" Miles Davis, after watching him with Sammy Davis Jr., told him, "you a bad MF$%&#", (thats a Miles' term of endearment). Clayton Cameron stands on the proverbial shoulders of those musicians who have left their indelible footprints on jazz. Simply put, he studied the masters like Roach, and was in?uenced by leaders like Miles. In 1990, he produced his ground breaking video, "The Living Art of Brushes", and revived interest in this jazz art form in which he is a master and innovator. You have heard his unique approach most notably on Tony Bennett's Grammy winning Steppin Out and Unplugged CDs. To go along with that distinction, he won 15 Grammys with Mr. Bennett, including Album of The Year.

Clayton Cameron has a dynamic career that has already crossed many barriers in the world of music. From Sammy Davis Jr. to Tony Bennett, Clayton continues to push the envelope of contemporary drumming and brushes to their very limits. After the release of the 1990 video, "The Living Art of Brushes" Clayton has been given the honorary title "Brush Master".

Since the release of this ground--breaking video Clayton has noticed a wonderful reaction from the drumming community, "It's been wonderful watching the growing interest in this art form. I never thought that my rhythmic tapping on empty oatmeal boxes would lead to such a distinction as Brush Master. My parents always thought I just loved oatmeal for breakfast. The fact is I knew the sooner I emptied the box...the sooner Id have another cardboard drum."

Born in Los Angeles, California Clayton began playing bongos at the age of seven. By age twelve his fascination with drums became so apparent his parents decided to buy him his first drum set and sent Clayton to music school for drum lessons.
"I guess they tired of my oatmeal box drumming as much as I tired of eating those hearty oats every morning."

Clayton went on to get a degree in music from California State University at Northridge. During college, he played in clubs around L.A behind artists who were mentors to him. They included vocalist O.C Smith, Ernie Andrews, Jimmy Witherspoon, instrumentalist Teddy Edwards, Larry Gales (of Thelonious Monk fame) and Gerald Wilson.

After graduating from college, Clayton moved to Las Vegas to perform nightly with a jazz group called the Kirk Stuart trio. Claytons drum teacher Clarence Johnston advised Clayton to do his job and stay away from gambling.
"I took his advice to heart and would quickly find out from the casino boss that my job was not to entertain people with my bombastic drum solos but to play as quietly as I could as not to distract the gamblers. No matter how softly I played with sticks it was not quite enough. So for six nights a week...during an eight--month engagement, I played...you guessed it...only brushes."

By experimenting with brush techniques and different styles Clayton was basically trying to make drumming more interesting.
"It was during this time that some of the rough ideas for my future drumming innovations were initially developed. During my stint with the trio we also toured with Joe Williams the great blues singer. My time with Joe and the trio was a memorable learning experience."

The same group would later join George Shearing and Joe Pass for a national tour.

While living in Las Vegas, Clayton would go to the Four Queens Hotel for its Monday night jazz sessions. On one of those many Monday nights he went to hear jazz trumpet legend Clark Terry.
"To my surprise and pleasure, Clark Terry invited me up to play on a few tunes. Little did I know... that the music director for Sammy Davis Jr., George Rhodes, was listening in the audience."
After hearing him play that night, George honored Clayton with an audition.
"He later hired me as the drummer for Sammy Davis Jr."

Claytons new job was quite different from his trio gig in Las Vegas. "Ironically the only tune I played with brushes was on Mr. Bojangles." Well that's nothing to shake a stick at (pun shameful intended). The other big difference was the number of musicians on stage. A big band and string orchestra numbered no less than 40 musicians and Clayton performed right in the middle of it all. Sammy could do everything...sing, do impersonations, jokes, play instruments (including drums), act and of course dance.
"It would be Sammys tap dancing night after night that would inspire my brush playing. During those years Clayton also played for Sammys Rat Pack friends--Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. The three toured together in 1988--89 selling out theaters and stadiums alike. "I knew then to treasure the experience." After returning from a European tour, Sammy Davis Jr. was diagnosed with cancer. Less than a year later the cancer took his life. "His talents were beyond words, I wish that all young performers could have witnessed him live and in concert. I still miss his showbiz magic to this day."

"In 1992 the music of New York City called me, so I answered by moving there that summer."

While living in one of the most exciting cities of the world, Clayton got another once in a lifetime chance. In April 1993, he started what would be an unbelievable 15 years of world wide touring and recording with the incomparable Tony Bennett.
"Performing with Tony has been a thrilling experience. His love of music and entertaining people has won him countless awards from Grammys to Emmys. Ive had the pleasure of recording with Tony on 15 albums, many of which received Grammy Awards."

His 1994 Grammy for Album of the Year, "Tony Bennett Unplugged" was unprecedented. It was the first time a live album had won the award. Tonys television show concept, the A & E Channels Live By Request, was another brainstorm. People loved being able to call in and ask for their favorite song. An Emmy award would follow and so would other artists. Phil Collins and Gloria Estefan among others took on the challenge of the live show format.

As a musician for these mega stars Clayton has performed for presidents, Queens and Kings, alternative rock crowds, charities and beyond. During Claytons time with Tony Bennett the group has performed with many great artists including Frank Sinatra, Billie Joel, Sting, Mariah Carey, Brandy, the Back Street Boys, James Taylor, K. D Lang, Elvis Costello, & Ricky Martin...just to name a few. "Tony has been making music history for 50 years and its been a blessing being a little part of it!"

In 2003 Clayton succeed in creating a ground--breaking book and DVD on the elusive art of brushes called "Brushworks". It is truly the definitive reference book on the art form. In 2004 Clayton started working with Jazz legend Kenny Burrell and recording several records with the Jazz Legend including the 75th Birthday Bash CD and 80th Birthday Special for KCET in Los Angeles, which includes the premiere performance of the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited (LAJOU). Under Professor Kenny Burrell, head of Jazz Studies at UCLA, Clayton started teaching in the Department where he is living up to his mantra, "when you teach you learn." In February 2012 "Heres to the Messengers", the Brush Masters debut CD was released and has received much praise. This tribute to Art Blakey is truly a labor of love that includes some classic tunes as well as originals by Cameron. This CD displays the culmination of his experiences in his years of touring and performing with some of the greatest performers in the world. Now he will be touring with his own group called the Jass eXplosion.

Clayton Cameron continues to reach as a drummer, composer and educator. He is now completing a dramatic stage play called Traps and Taps and Brief History of Rhythm in America, which will debut in 2013.
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