‘I kind of had my suspicions': John Clayton on the mystery gig that turned out to be Paul McCartney

For John Clayton, the gig was a complete mystery. He knew that Diana Krall would be on piano, but not who the singer would be. “They wouldn’t say who it was,” the Grammy-winning jazz bassist reveals. Because it was Paul McCartney.

Clayton and Krall would end up playing signature roles on McCartney’s most recent studio effort, the 2012 standards set Kisses on the Bottom, as well as the live album that followed. But Clayton — who has worked with countless music icons, including the Count Basie Orchestra, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Carmen McRae and others — didn’t know any of that then.

After he accepted the gig, Clayton was admonished not to mention it on Facebook, or even in emails to friends. There would be no cameras allowed, either.

“As time went on, I kind of had my suspicions,” Clayton says, in a newly posted talk with JazzTimes. “Sure enough, I walked into the studio — and they still hadn’t told us, and in walked Paul McCartney.”

A former artistic director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s jazz program at the Hollywood Bowl, Clayton holds the same position now with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. He’s also co-led the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with drummer Jeff Hamilton, another musician on the mystery McCartney date.

“Like everybody else, I had grown up on his music and I was a fan,” Clayton says of the former Beatles legend. “He was so amazing. He’s a people person, and knows how to make everybody feel good.”

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