After traveling the world with his own brand of jazz over the past 18 months, Jim Clayton is looking forward to his first live gig in a long time.
But it is exactly what the veteran award-winning jazz artist has been doing throughout COVID-19 that has earned him praise from a lauded international audience.
Since the pandemic effectively shut down the world in March 2020, Clayton’s Danforth area home – specifically his dining room – has become the gym’s piano bar, with Clayton performing more than 425, a personal twist Facebook A following of 250 to an international audience of over 30,000.
Clayton admitted that he was being “stupid” when he and 11-year-old daughter Lenny decided to entertain friends, answer questions and take requests via Facebook. The family cat, Fry, also occasionally makes guest appearances.
“We did it (live show) twice and had some fun with it. The third night, we were watching a movie and I got a message on Facebook, ‘Oh, aren’t you guys up tonight?’ I thought it was funny, why not give people what they want?” Clayton remembered.
“After a month, I was going to take a night off. That day, I received a message from a nurse in Argentina saying that music helped her with the full night shift during COVID. I thought, ‘Oh my god, if she can do that, I can play for an hour.’ So I kept going,” he said.
Clayton’s wife, who works in digital marketing, helped him post ads first in North America and then in South America. And after moving from his personal Facebook page to Jim Clayton Jazz Facebook page, his viewership has increased.
“All of a sudden, it was 15,000 or 20,000 followers. In the spring, it broke the 30,000 people who followed the page. That doesn’t mean if you have to tune in, 30,000 people are watching. People come, and they come and go,” Clayton said.
Clayton has learned to greet his audience in both Spanish and Portuguese, thanks to one particular fan: a hotelier in Ilheus, Brazil, who wants him to fly in for a few shows next year. He also set up a virtual “tip jar” to support a variety of worthy causes, including the Glade Day Bookshop Emergency Survival Fund, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.
He’s also reunited with some old friends, including a high school classmate and fellow musician living in Dubai – “He’s watching before leaving for work in the morning. It’s already tomorrow where he is” – as well A huge range of new fans and friends.
Fans in turn have lauded Clayton through online testimonials.
“We are very social people, but suddenly COVID became a very quiet time for us. When we found out Jim was doing an online concert every night, we were thrilled! Jim Clayton Jazz became the focus of our evening, something we’ve been looking forward to, and whether we’re playing cards, reading or just enjoying nature on our deck, Jim brings our lives to life with soothing, refreshing music. filled with We are so grateful to him for sharing his talent and music (and even his endless stories) with him!” Written by Sue Hewson, 65, a retired London schoolteacher.
“I tuned in every single evening during over a hundred shows,” wrote Marcio Roberto Bueno Fernandes, 45, from Santo Andre, Brazil.
“The idea of being part of this community of music lovers, with a great player who will talk to us, play our requested songs and connect us to other greats in the same situation, in the same ‘piano bar’.” It was very exciting and cool all at the same time. It was absolutely necessary for me. I would spend all day in anticipation of Jim’s piano bar. It helped a lot to take my mind off the dark places,” he said.
“I find music calming and it was always nice to hear a familiar voice during a pandemic. Loved both music and listening to stories. Looking forward to doing it live again, but the piano bar has definitely been a treat,” wrote Charlene Winger, a project manager in Toronto.
Clayton, who worked for more than a decade as music director for Second City’s national touring company, has made a decent living doing corporate work in recent years, at least until the pandemic hit. Their trio also won the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award twice, in 2005 and 2006.
He is returning to Jazz Bistro at 251 Victoria St on 15 September for a two-set performance, where he last performed a few years ago for his 50th birthday. Clayton will reunite with old jazz collaborators, Peter Telford on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums, and is looking forward to the experience.
“The big thing for me is to perform with other musicians. Playing alone is very different. This is more work. At the very least, I like to play with a bass player as he holds down the groove. I’m practicing with a metronome to make sure I can still keep the beat,” Clayton said with a laugh.
Clayton plans to continue his Facebook exposure five nights a week in the near future.
“I was trying to make my kid laugh most of the time. And this thing has just popped up. I am shocked and certainly happy. It has been incredibly gratifying. They (fans) all know my daughter, they all know my cat,” Clayton said.
“There is really no reason to stop even when things are back to normal. These people are also helping me. As I often sign this on behalf of my family, thank you for getting me their hair for an hour a night. “