Born: January 11, 1977 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Brooklyn based guitarist and composer Clay Ross is carving a unique niche for himself on the international music scene. His passion for music has taken him far from his South Carolina Roots and lead him to embrace influences from around the world. He has toured extensively as a U.S. Jazz Ambassador and as a member of Cyro Baptista’s world renowned percussion ensemble “Beat the Donkey.” With his new group, “Matuto,” Clay mixes the best of bluegrass and baiao for a sound like a carnival in the Appalachian mountains.
After studying classical composition at the College of Charleston, Clay became an integral part of the South Carolina jazz scene. Mixing elements of rock, blues, bluegrass, and funk, his original groups were highly praised in the local press and popular on the regional club circuit. With his bands “Otus,” “Gradual Lean,” and “Mickey Baker Project,” Clay developed his chops and shared the stage with national acts passing through.
After a brief move to Paris, and a few memorable performances in the Pigalle Squats, Clay moved to NYC in 2002. There, he honed his skills with the city’s most amazing young talents. He recorded and released the jazz quartet album “The Random Puller,” which featured nine original compositions. The album met with critical praise and won Ross invitations to perform internationally at clubs and concert halls in Rio De Janeiro, Istanbul, and Milan. It also helped him to secure regular performances at established NYC venues such as 55bar, Barbes, The Bar Next Door, and The Stone.
Shortly after arriving in NYC, Clay began exploring an increasing love for Brazilian Music. In 2004 he co-founded the “Agora Quartet,” a group that combines jazz and northeastern Brazilian rhythms. The group won the prestigious title of Latin Jazz Ambassadors through Lincoln Center and the U.S. State Department and embarked on a U.S. sponsored tour through Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, and Turkey. Based on the success of these tours, Clay was invited to return, not once, but twice, and used these opportunities to embrace the rich musical influences of the Balkans.
In 2005, Clay was invited to become a full time member of Cyro Baptista’s “Beat the Donkey,” and received critical praise for performances at major concert halls and music festivals around the world.
In 2007, Clay joined “Nation Beat,” at the Porto Musical Festival During Carnival in Recife, Brazil. There, he participated in an unprecedented cultural exchange between Nation Beat and the traditional “maracatu” percussion group Estrella Brillante. Clay is a featured guest on Nation Beat’s ground-breaking new album “Legends of the Preacher” (modiba), and is now helping to define a sound that combines Northeastern Brazilian Rhythms and American Folk.
After traveling in Brazil, Clay returned with a pan-american perspective on his country roots. “Matuto” is Brazilian slang for Country Bumpkin. It’s also the name of Clay Ross’ new Album and Band. It’s where exotic Brazilian percussion instruments commingle with blues drenched vocals and country fiddle tunes. It’s a sound you may recognize, but like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
“Sly, subtle wit colors his guitar style: playful and humorous but deeply complex.” --Jambands.com
“Clay Ross thinks like a Poet, writes like a Novelist and plays the guitar like a Master.” --Jammed Online
“A solid debut from a talented player and composer. Clay Ross' debut disc reveals a solid jazz player, but even more so a strong songwriter who knows how to lay back and let his session mates shine. --CharlestonJazz.com
The amazing guitarist Clay Ross helps us kick into another notch, learning our repertoire so diligently and contributing with his solid harmonies. --Cyro Baptista