Jazz orchestra plays on after tragedy

When the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra takes the stage Saturday in Laguna Beach, it may have a few souls to soothe and nerves to calm.

And the group has been there before.

On Sept. 12, 2001, the venerable big band ensemble co-headlined at the Hollywood Bowl, playing to a scattered audience — according to the Los Angeles Times review, less than half of the 6,800 ticket buyers came in the wake of the terror attacks. The band was diminished, too, as some members were unable to attend due to air traffic being grounded. Regardless, the show went on.

Saturday, the orchestra will play in the Laguna Beach Live! music series at the Laguna Playhouse, just five days after twin bombings at the Boston Marathon killed three and wounded nearly 200. At times like these, drummer Jeff Hamilton said, music takes on an added importance.

"I think that we want to keep things moving," said Hamilton, who was among those stranded during the post-9/11 show. "Life goes on. We're not going to be stopped by incidents like this. We have to keep going day after day. So I think the celebration of us playing music and affecting some people and having a couple hours of feeling good about things is the right thing to do."

Clayton-Hamilton, which served as the Hollywood Bowl's resident jazz ensemble from 1999 to 2001, will make its second Laguna appearance Saturday. The show is part of Laguna Beach Live!'s celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, during a week in which many listeners, following the Boston attack and Wednesday's plant explosion in Texas, are likely counting the things they appreciate.

Earlier this month, the series featured Hamilton's trio, among others, at the Aliso Creek Inn. Laguna Beach Live! president Cindy Prewitt, who considers Hamilton the world's greatest drummer, was excited to have the full ensemble back.

"I think they're a longtime favorite of everybody," she said.

The band, which formed in 1985, has weathered ups and downs of its own throughout the years. According to Hamilton, seven original members remain; six have passed away. In some cases, the orchestra has retired tunes that were composed to spotlight specific members.

When the band selects new members, it often finds them through personal connections or word of mouth.

"It's kind of like selecting your brothers and sisters, if you had a chance to do that," Hamilton said.

Currently, the orchestra comprises 19 members, with bassist John Clayton serving as arranger. Many of the group's tunes are originals by Clayton, who met Hamilton as a student at Indiana University.

What will Saturday's set list include? Hamilton said the band wouldn't determine the program until rehearsals this week.

At the 2001 concert, Clayton started by leading the band in "Heart and Soul" and dedicating it to 9/11 victims. The day after that show, pianist Dave Brubeck, who played with Clayton-Hamilton in the past, elicited tears at the Orange County Performing Arts Center by playing the spiritual "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" — another song that took on an added meaning under the circumstances.

"We might find one of those today," Hamilton said.


Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

If You Go

What: Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $35 to $40 for seating; if tickets sell out, $20 standing-room-only tickets will be available at the box office Saturday

Information: (949) 497-2787 or http://www.lagunabeachlive.org

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World