Jay Clayton, a singer whose six-decade profession encompassed freewheeling improvisation, lyrical songs and poetry, and the prescient use of electronics, died on Dec. 31 at her dwelling in New Paltz, N.Y. She was 82.
Her daughter, Dejha Colantuono, mentioned the trigger was small-cell lung most cancers.
Ms. Clayton established herself as an innovator within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, sparring with instrumentalists in avant-garde settings and utilizing electronics to change and lengthen her vocal palette properly earlier than the follow grew to become widespread. She labored steadily with different singers — she fashioned an particularly shut bond with Sheila Jordan, an early mentor — and she or he sang in playfully aerobatic vocal teams with friends like Jeanne Lee, Ursula Dudziak, Norma Winstone and Bobby McFerrin.
“She works within the acquainted avant-garde terrain of wordless, spontaneous improvisations in duo and group settings,” the critic Jon Garelick wrote of her work in The Boston Phoenix in 1990. “However Clayton can also be a heat, gracious interpreter of lyric requirements, and this lyricism pervades all her work.”
She carried out for a decade with the composer Steve Reich, collaborating within the growth and recording of breakthrough items like “Drumming,” “Music for 18 Musicians” and “Tehillim.” She additionally labored intently with dancers and choreographers early in her profession, and she or he maintained an everlasting collaboration with the faucet dancer Brenda Bufalino.
A distinguished and influential trainer, Ms. Clayton held positions on the Metropolis School of New York, the Peabody Institute and Princeton College. She developed a vocal program for the Banff Heart in Alberta, Canada, the place she taught with Ms. Jordan. The 2 additional collaborated in coaching packages in Massachusetts and Vermont and ran a celebrated retreat for singers at Willow Lane Farm in Berne, N.Y., close to Albany.
Distinguished amongst Ms. Clayton’s college students are the composer Karen Goldfeder and the protean vocal improviser Theo Bleckmann. However by way of her widespread pedagogy — together with a e book, “Sing Your Story: A Sensible Information for Studying and Educating the Artwork of Jazz Singing,” revealed in 2001 — her progeny are legion.
She was born Judith Theresa Colantone on Oct. 28, 1941, in Youngstown, Ohio. Her father, William Colantone, was a carpenter and development employee; her mom, Josephine (Armeni) Colantone, had sung professionally in the course of the big-band period.
Ms. Clayton took up the accordion and later had a number of years of piano classes. After highschool, she attended a summer time program on the St. Louis Institute of Music after which enrolled at Miami College in Oxford, Ohio, the place she obtained a bachelor’s diploma in music training in 1963. Since jazz programs weren’t accessible, she studied classical repertoire whereas quietly sharpening her improvisational abilities on weekend dates with an area trombonist.
After shifting to New York Metropolis in 1963, Ms. Clayton fell in with the downtown jazz scene and fashioned an early affiliation with the soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. By him, she met the drummer Frank Clayton, with whom she started a relationship in 1965. In 1967, the couple began a live performance sequence, “Jazz on the Loft,” of their dwelling on Lispenard Road, within the neighborhood later known as TriBeCa, presenting performances by the saxophonist Sam Rivers, the pianist Joanne Brackeen and others. They married in 1968.
Not lengthy afterward, Ms. Clayton was launched to Mr. Reich by the singer Joan La Barbara, who was her scholar. What he sought, he mentioned in a cellphone interview, was a “modern-day equal” of Ella Fitzgerald: somebody who might carry out his music with spontaneity in addition to precision.
Ms. Clayton match the invoice. “Her pitch was dead-on, and her rhythm was a elevate to the spirit,” Mr. Reich mentioned. “She grasped what needed to be executed, and she or he did it to perfection.”
Flourishing amongst her fellow innovators and iconoclasts, Ms. Clayton led instructional workshops with Jeanne Lee and carried out with the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams on the Public Theater in 1979. That very same yr, she consulted on the primary Ladies in Jazz pageant, produced by Cobi Narita (who died in November).
In 1981, Ms. Clayton launched her first album, “All-Out,” a wide-ranging assertion with an ensemble that included Mr. Clayton, the pianist Larry Karush, the saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, the vocalist Shelley Hirsch and others. On a number of tracks Ms. Clayton sang swooping, hovering strains in tandem with Ms. Bloom, a current arrival from New Haven, Conn., whom Ms. Clayton had taken underneath her wing.
“From the minute she and I met, we had this linear synchronicity,” Ms. Bloom mentioned in an interview. “There’s one thing concerning the mixture of her sound and my sound: We performed strains collectively, and it was like this different instrument.” They collaborated for many years.
In 1982, Ms. Clayton, her husband and their two kids moved to Seattle, the place she taught on the Cornish College, now Cornish School of the Arts. When she and Mr. Clayton divorced in 1984, she remained in Seattle, growing a brand new circle of collaborators that included the drummer Jerry Granelli, the trombonist Julian Priester, the bassist and the saxophonist Briggan Krauss.
She recorded works by the experimental composer John Cage within the late Nineteen Eighties and returned to Mr. Reich’s music now and again. Her jazz recordings from these years embrace “Stunning Love,” a 1995 album dedicated to classic widespread requirements with the pianist Fred Hersch.
“I all the time suppose that doing customary materials lets you understand the place any individual’s coming from,” Mr. Hersch mentioned in an interview, likening the follow to a painter rendering a nonetheless life or a nude. “In Jay’s case, plenty of it is extremely hauntingly lovely, and fairly fierce by way of improvising.”
Ms. Clayton moved again to New York in 2002, re-establishing an area presence each alone and in collaboration with Ms. Jordan. She made a stream of recordings for the Sunnyside label, starting from a lyrical tribute to the songwriter Harry Warren to an adventurous digital fantasia involving poetry by Emily Dickinson, made with the composer and pianist Kirk Nurock.
She was identified with aggressive lung most cancers in December 2022. Her closing recording, “Voices in Flight,” a collaboration with the singer Judy Niemack, was launched in June.
Along with her daughter, Ms. Clayton is survived by her brother, William Colantone Jr.; her son, Dov Clayton; and two grandchildren.
To the top, Ms. Clayton remained dedicated to her college students. “She was all the time simply precisely herself, personally and musically,” Ms. Goldfeder wrote in a Fb put up; “it’s one of many some ways she was an incredible trainer.”