February 12th, 2010 16:35 EST
SOP Battle of the Bands Featuring Klay DC with 'Ritmo'
Klay`s early childhood was spent in London. His father Ronnie, a struggling artist (hence the name Klay named after his father`s favourite painter Paul Klee " well it was the sixties) also played Jug in The Dedicated Men " an art school band who were doing rather well at the time, though sadly not financially. The band were signed to Pye records and toured with The Who amongst others.
His Mother Bridgette was an artists muse.
As a point of interest Bridgette`s cousin is Michael Caine who actually bought one of Ronnie`s early pieces in lieu when the couple were up against it. Michael had just finished Alfie so he was not short but it was a generous gesture and to the best of my knowledge, he has yet to receive his picture. Not a lot of people know that etc. etc.
From a run down basement in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, they moved to Notting Hill. Klay`s earliest memories are of this flat. Bridgette, always a free spirit, soon grew tired of being an artist`s muse and elected instead to become the source of inspiration for a musician.
A Blues/Folk guitarist in fact by the name of Davey Graham who was not dissimilar in appearance to Klay`s father. At this time Davey was destined for great things, pushing the boundaries of Folk, Jazz and Blues and recording with the likes of Alexis Korner and Shirley Collins. Unfortunately he was also pushing boundaries in other areas and one of Klay`s earliest memories is of sharing a bed with Davey and his mother in Notting Hill, when Davey would go out in the middle of the night to "buy some cakes`. He always did come back with cakes, amongst other things, so god knows where he got them from. Though an enduring influence on countless Guitarists then and since, Davey never really fulfilled his potential, blowing too many potential breaks through "unreliability`.
Klay, now three, made his feelings known about missing his father. Another early memory is that of his father and Davey having a vicious fight in the kitchen because Ronnie wanted his artists materials back. Ronnie had given up the flat to Bridgette and Klay as he couldn`t afford to look after him. Anyway he had to go out to work. Finally Davey had had enough and Bridgette put him in a home. Of course his dad took him out when he found out, but as he still had no means to look after him this set a pattern for a while and Klay was in and out of homes for a time.
At five Klay went to live with his father and his new wife Liz who were moving to Suffolk. From now on he (and his new brother Seth) would grow up as the sons of an artist and itinerant, moving throughout the country.
It was a great adventure for a kid in spite of the fact that they were pretty broke most of the time. For a time in Cornwall they were the family of "a boatman` for Lord St Levan on St Michaels Mount. This in spite of the fact that the closest thing Ronnie had done regarding boats was attempting to get off with women by rowing on the Serpentine. Following this they moved to Carn Brea Castle. A semi-derelict castle/folly. The boy`s bedroom was above the Chapel, which in turn was above the crypt. No problems with nightmares there then. Klay began learning piano in the Chapel, although the "piano` was in fact an old pump organ with two pedals. Anything above a seventh chord and it would run out of puff. Still, Liz was a good teacher and Klay felt that the sound of the organ probably kept the ghouls and fiends from the crypt away.
Whilst moving around was great fun, the down side was always being the new boy and this usually entailed a lot of fights. One fight at sixteen nearly put paid to his going on to further education. By this time Klay`s first study was Clarinet exactly and the punch-up ended with him receiving a badly split lip and two broken teeth which could have finished his playing the instrument. Fortunately the lip healed OK and he went on to study classical music, writing a piano sonata, string quartet and various duets for Piano and other instruments. By now, aged 16, he was becoming more interested in writing Jazz tunes and listening to The Crusaders, George Benson, Rodney Franklin. At 18 he went to study at the Leeds College of Music Jazz Degree Course. This was the closest that the UK had to Berklee College.
Here he began seriously writing Jazz Fusion tracks and focussing on Piano technique. He didn`t see eye to eye with some of the tutors, particularly when it came to harmonic theory classes, and became disenchanted with the college.
The last straw for me with that place, was when I was told that because my knowledge of harmonic theory was poor, I would also have to be put down a group in aural recognition class. I could pick out a tune faster than any of those guys, but they just couldn`t make the distinction. When I compose I sit at a piano not a desk. That is the whole reason I changed to focus on Piano as my first instrument. What the hell kind of learning institution is that? So I thought screw that."
This attitude did not instantaneously find favour with the College and he left having learnt a great deal, though not necessarily from their curriculum, his only memento being one half of a Tabla set stolen from the college late one night after a drunken break-in.
Though always writing, the day jobs proved many and various. Landscape gardener, Barman, Professional Topiarist, Postman, Lorry Driver, Hotel Porter, Tree Surgeon, Caretaker in a mental institution, courier, city messenger, life assurance salesman, record shop buyer, advertising salesman.
His break came when his band were asked to produce an album by a small label co-owned by Shakatak`s Bill Sharpe and DJ Ralph Tee. This lead to the Jazz Steppers album - Get Up! which won the 1998 MOBO for best Jazz Act.
This lead to better gigs and management but ultimately little else, and in 1999 the band split and Klay joined Roy Ayers as part of his Ubiquity band.
Whilst with Roy he released his first solo album - On Reflection through an independent UK label.
In 2001 he was asked by Sony Jazz UK to put together a Rhythm section for Guitarist Martin Taylor`s Sony UK tour to promote Martin`s new album - Nitelife - produced by Kirk Whalum.
In 2005 he quit Roy`s band and having become disillusioned with the UK Jazz scene, concentrated on studio projects and session work with artists such as Jocelyn Brown and Rippingtons sax player Jeff Kashiwa.
Ritmo is his new solo release and his first venture to launch Klay D-C in the U.S.