The Toronto jazz musician has transformed a personal Facebook of 250 followers into an international audience of over 30,000 during the pandemic

After serenading the world with his own brand of jazz for the past 18 months, Jim Clayton is looking forward to his first live concert in a long time.

But it’s what the award-winning veteran jazz artist has been doing throughout COVID-19 that has won him applause from a grateful international audience.

Shortly after the pandemic effectively shut down the world in March 2020, Clayton’s Danforth-area home — more specifically, his dining room — became Jim’s Piano Bar, with Clayton logging over 425 performances, turning a Facebook staff of 250 following into an international audience of over 30,000.

Clayton admitted he got “restless” when he and his 11-year-old daughter Lenny decided to entertain friends via Facebook, answering questions and taking requests. The family cat, Fry, also made an occasional appearance.

“We did it (live show) twice and had fun with it. On the third night we were watching a movie and I got a message on Facebook saying, ‘Oh, you’re not here tonight?’ I thought it was fun, why not give people what they want? Clayton recalled.

“After a month, I was going to take a night’s rest. That day I received a message from a nurse in Argentina saying that music helped her get through the night during COVID. I thought, ‘Oh my god, if she can do that, I can play for an hour.’ That’s why I continued,” he added.

Clayton’s wife, who works in digital marketing, helped him post ads first in North America and then in South America. And after switching from his personal Facebook page to the Jim Clayton Jazz Facebook page, his audience exploded.

“All of a sudden it was 15,000 or 20,000 followers. In the spring it broke 30,000 people following the page. That doesn’t mean if you’re listening there’s 30 000 people watching. People come and they come and go,” Clayton noted.

Clayton learned how to greet his audience in both Spanish and Portuguese, thanks to one particular fan: a hotel owner in Ilhéus, Brazil, who wants him to fly to some shows next year. He also set up a virtual “tip jar” to support various worthy causes, including the Glad Day Bookshop Emergency Survival Fund, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Orleans Musicians. ‘Clinic.

He’s also reconnected with old friends, including a classmate from high school and another musician who lives in Dubai — “he watches before he goes to work in the morning. It’s already tomorrow where he is” — along with a vast array of new fans and friends.

Fans in turn let Clayton know how well-liked he was via online testimonials.

“We are very social people, but suddenly COVID has become a very quiet time for us. When we found out that Jim was doing an online gig every night, we were thrilled! Jim Clayton Jazz became our evening priority, something we looked forward to, and whether we were playing cards, reading or enjoying nature on our patio, Jim filled our lives with soothing and refreshing music. We are very grateful to him for sharing his talent and his music (and even his endless stories) with us! wrote Sue Huson, 65, a retired teacher from London.

“I listened every night for over a hundred shows,” wrote Marcio Roberto Bueno Fernandes, 45, from Santo Andre, Brazil.

“The idea of ​​being part of this community of music lovers, with a great player who would talk to us, play our requested songs and even connect us with other great people in the same situation, in the same “piano -bar “. It was very exciting and soothing at the same time. It was absolutely necessary for me. I spent all day waiting for Jim’s piano bar. It helped me a lot not to think about dark places “, he added.

“I find the music soothing and during the pandemic it was always nice to hear a familiar voice. I loved the music and listening to the stories. Can’t wait to do it live again, but the Piano Bar was definitely a treat,” wrote Charlene Winger, a Toronto project manager.

Clayton, who worked for more than a decade as music director for national touring company Second City, made a decent living doing corporate work for the past few years, at least until the pandemic hit. hit. His trio also won the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award twice in 2005 and 2006.

He returns to Jazz Bistro at 251 Victoria Street on September 15 for a two-set performance, a place he last performed for his 50th birthday a few years ago. Clayton will reunite with former jazz colleagues, Peter Telford on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums, and look forward to the experience.

“The most important thing for me is playing with other musicians. Playing solo is very different. It’s more work too. At the very least, I prefer playing with a bass player because he keeps the groove going. I practiced with a metronome to make sure I can always keep the beat,” Clayton said with a laugh.

Clayton plans to continue performing on Facebook five nights a week for the near future.

“I was just trying to make my kid laugh most of the time. And this thing just popped up. I’m surprised and certainly thrilled. It’s been incredibly rewarding. They (the fans) all know my daughter, they all know my cat said Clayton.

“There’s no real reason to quit even when things normalize. These people also help me. As I often sign saying, on behalf of my family, thank you for having my hair done for an hour a night.


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