Born and raised in northern California, Clayton started playing clarinet at age ten. Within a couple of years he fell in love with the saxophone, and was particularly drawn to the bigger horns. His commitment to jazz was cemented by playing bari sax for the charismatic leader/arranger of Californias top-ranked high school big band.
Continuing to play in the Bay Area, Claytons next great mentor in jazz was the late sax legend Joe Henderson. Studying with Joe and playing in San Francisco throughout the '70s, Clayton joined and co-led a variety of jazz, fusion and Latin bandsthe last being the contemporary jazz quartet, Thursday Group. Moving east in 1980, Thursday Group recorded two highly-acclaimed albums for Pathfinder Records over the next several years.
Settling in the Washington, D.C. area, Clayton played actively with another eclectic mix of big bands, Latin and jazz groups, and R&B combos. He also studied theory, composition and ear-training with the brilliant teacher and musical guru, Dr. Asher Zlotnik. In 1984 Clayton formed Windmill.
Over the next 18 years, Windmill created an extraordinarily original, distinctive sound. The Quartet draws on modern jazz, bebop, Latin, classical, R&B, pop and avant-garde forms. Every member composes and arranges; every member is a multi-instrumentalist on various saxes, clarinets, and flutes.
Over the years, Windmill has appeared at several Mid-Atlantic clubs and festivals. The group's earlier performances were marked by often loosely-structured pieces, with liberal doses of free-improvisation. This format gradually gave way to much more concise, melodic and strongly rhythmical compositionsas became evident in their 1988 debut recording, Very Scary (for Pathfinder).
By 1998's This & That (on Global View Records) their refined and highly-eclectic style had fully coalesced. The group has, however, now come full-circle with A Touch Of Evil. The new release features longer works containing extended improvs, most abetted by equally free-spirited guests.
Clayton continues to compose for and lead both Windmill and Equinox, a jazz/world/fusion sextet. In his new professional role as an occupational therapist, he is also deeply involved in the care and education of autistic children.
Growing up in the Maryland-D.C. area, Jesse joined his first group, the Ukulele Barbershop Quartet, at age seven. A year later hed found the saxophone and was soon playing in his schools stage band. By eighth grade he was lead guitarist and singer for the Stoned Vultures, a local rock and roll group.
A year later he joined his first jazz band and started composingthe beginning of a lifelong passion for both disciplines. Jesse continued playing with a variety of bands through high school, and persued advanced musical studies at Prince George Community College and St. Marys College. At St. Marys he also started studying classical alto saxophone and flute, and played under legendary trumpeter Cat Anderson. Jesse soon formed his own jazz/avant garde group, the Frequent Arkestra.
After graduating college, Jesse continued composing for and performing with the Arkestra, as well as nearly a dozen area big bands. He has worked with Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Carl Grubbs, Jacki Byard and Muhal Richard Abrams. One of the original, founding members of Windmill, he soon became their most prolific composer/arranger.
Outside Windmill, Jesse is featured soloist in several area jazz, Latin and show bands. He keeps busy with studio work and has recorded with the Craig Bazen Big Band, the Peter Fraize Sextet, and a number of performance poets. He is also a dedicated music teacher in jazz and woodwinds.
Growing up in suburban Maryland, Ken Plant started his music studies on the clarinet at age ten. He continued playing clarinet throughout high school, then added saxophone in college. At the University of Maryland he studied saxophone and music composition, focusing on twentieth century and electronic music forms. During and after college, Ken started working with local ensembles in several different genres. He also composed and performed music for Theatre du Jour, an avant garde theater troupe, and for the Source Theatre Company.
In 1983, Ken moved to Baltimore and, like Clayton, began intensive studies with Dr. Zlotnik. A year later he joined Windmill, while continuing to play with other jazz groups and dance companies in the greater DC area, including the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra. He started performing Latin jazz in the mid-eighties, and is currently touring nationally with the Millie Jackson Band. In addition, Ken is forming a new band playing in the Cuban tradition.
Toms earliest musical memories involve jazz: a handful of old Dukes of Dixieland and Shorty Rogers records that he played to death. He joined his church choir at ten, and then started studying flute with the choir's director. At age thirteen, jazz recordings from the local library by the likes of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, John Handy and Miles Davis ignited his love for jazz and the saxophone. He started playing tenor in high school, soon joining the schools jazz band.
Tom began to take his interests more seriously as a music major in college, and continued playing and writing for several local jazz groups. He soon was a full-time musician performing in a wide variety of styles and contexts..
His next great musical turning point came in 1987, when he became yet another student of Asher Zlotnik. Soon after, Tom both completed his music degree studies and became the newest member of the Windmill Saxophone Quartet. His composing and performing skills have flourished ever since. He currently teaches music in area public schools.
For booking and additional info
Windmill Saxophone Quartet, c/o Global View Records
2800 Emory Church Road, Olney, MD 20832