PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Jazz coming to Port Townsend for annual weeklong festival

PORT TOWNSEND — Listening: It offers something sublime.

And for the young piano player Gerald Clayton, listening is the jumping-off point for a weeklong celebration of music: the collection of workshops and concerts known as Jazz Port Townsend.

After his first “Jazz in the Clubs” performance at the Rose Theatre, 235 Taylor St., next Thursday night, Clayton will host a class, “How to Listen Like a Musician,” at 1:15 p.m. next Friday, July 29. Inside the Wheeler Theater at Fort Worden State Park, “we’ll listen together and talk about the music,” Clayton promised.

The session is one of many during the 35th annual Jazz Port Townsend, and Clayton sees it as a break from the technical instruction happening in many of the week’s classes. And “Listen Like a Musician” is free, like all workshops and music clinics during the July 29 “Free Friday Blowout” at Fort Worden, 200 Battery Way. A schedule is found at

“My goal is to get the students to tap into the expression,” Clayton says. “Its really just a matter of listening and discovering the answers of the music.”

Such discoveries will be continue to be in abundant supply over the coming days. Jazz Port Townsend will roam the city, with its Jazz in the Clubs series Thursday through Saturday night, July 28-30, and concerts at the fort’s McCurdy Pavilion from Friday night through next Sunday, July 29-31. Ticket information is at and 800-746-1982.

Clayton is one among more than 30 jazz artists coming to the festival. His fellow performers include his father, renowned bassist John Clayton; his uncle, saxophone player Jeff Clayton; nine-time Grammy winner Paquito D’Rivera and big-band master Bill Holman. Vocalists Sunny Wilkinson, Dee Daniels and Charenee Wade are also on their way: Daniels and Wade will appear at 7:30 p.m. July 29 in a concert titled “Vocal Mastery” along with the Jeff Hamilton Trio; tickets are $18, $28 and $35.

The galaxy of jazzmen and -women will also give intimate performances in downtown and uptown locations including the Public House, The Upstage, the Undertown, the Castle Key, the Key City Playhouse, the Northwest Maritime Center and the Rose Theatre. Some venues charge no admission, while others ask for a cover; patrons can pay for one show at a time or buy the three-day, all-venue Jazz in the Clubs pass for $25. Complete details await at

Another opportunity to hear the pianist who’s been described as “the bright future of jazz” comes next Saturday, July 30, at 1:30 p.m. The Gerald Clayton Trio, with Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Quincy Davis, will offer music from the trio’s latest record, “Bond: The Paris Sessions.” Also on the matinee bill are vocalist Wilkinson and the Centrum Faculty All-Star Big Band, led by Holman and featuring D’Rivera. Tickets to this show are priced at $20, $31 and $45.

The Gerald Clayton Trio will return to the stage on the night of July 30, this time with vibraphonist Stefon Harris and an ensemble called the JPT Eight-Piece Sextet.

Its players are D’Rivera, tenor saxman Joel Frahm, trumpeter Terell Stafford, trombonist Jiggs Whigham, pianist Benny Green, country-bop guitarist Bruce Forman, Christoph Luty on bass, and 2011 Jazz Journalists’ Drummer of the Year Matt Wilson. Originally conceived as a sextet, John Clayton and Jazz Port Townsend program manager Gregg Miller couldn’t resist adding two more players to the powerhouse ensemble, and the “eight-piece sextet” was born. Seats at this concert are $18, $28 and $35.

McCurdy Pavilion shows are the culmination of Jazz Port Townsend’s week of workshops with faculty including Jeff, John and Gerald Clayton as well as Wilkinson, Daniels and Wade. And Gerald Clayton, at 27, jokes that he’ll get to be the old man this week, with students who are “young kids I can pick on.”

His advice for young musicians, though, takes a different tone. It comes from his father John, who encouraged him to follow his passion — and not to worry about making it big monetarily.

“The best lesson my dad always bestowed on me,” Gerald said, “was do it for the love of the music, and let the rest take care of itself.

“So far, that’s worked. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones.”

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