The grammy-nominated bass player, composer and conductor sat down Friday morning for an extended interview with KLEW News. Clayton said he's having a great time at the festival.
"It's like a big party,” said Clayton. “It's like a big party, a big reunion, a big chance to learn something. The educational opportunities are endless."
Clayton, who's from Los Angeles, said his predecessor Dr. Lynn "Doc" Skinner was a remarkable festival director and his shoes are big ones to fill.
"All the things that you see - this man had a hand in,” Clayton said. “So, now I'm having to learn all of that. We're having to figure out which things I can do and which things are beyond me. Being the artistic director of this festival means a lot. It means also seeing to it that the vision that Doc Skinner and Lionel Hampton originally had continues."
Clayton has created some controversy over his decision to eliminate standings from student competition. He said first place awards are not in line with his philosophy of art and that it's not as important to young musicians as some might think.
"We've got to find, as a festival, something that keeps our students as excited as they would be if they had a chance to perform for whomever, Prince, Madonna, etc.,” he said. “That's the ticket, that's the key. We have to motivate them."
Clayton met his wife, who is Dutch, while on tour in Europe. His 22-year-old son will be performing on piano with the Roy Hargrove Quartet at Saturday night's concert. He also has a 24-year-old daughter who is preparing to attend law school.