DownBeat Blindfold Test Hosted by Dan Ouellette
The Annual DownBeat Blindfold Test is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to discuss and identify the music and musicians who performed on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune, issuing a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test. The DownBeat Blindfold Test is presented in conjunction with the Jazz Journalists Association.
In 2012, the DownBeat Blindfold Test will be taken by pianist Gerald Clayton. Born in 1984, Gerald grew up mainly in Los Angeles with a musical family that includes his father, bassist/composer John Clayton, and uncle, saxophonist Jeff Clayton. At the age of six, Gerald began 11 years study of classical piano with Linda Buck before enrolling in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Southern California. In college in Los Angeles and a year at the Manhattan School of Music, Gerald studied piano and composition under Shelly Berg, Billy Childs, and Kenny Barron. Professionally, Gerald has had the honor of performing nationally and internationally with some of the most established names in jazz such as Lewis Nash, Al Foster, Terrell Stafford, and Clark Terry. Duo piano concerts with Gerald have featured artists as celebrated and diverse as Hank Jones, Benny Green, Kenny Barron, Mulgrew Miller, and Tamir Hendelman. Gerald also relishes playing with jazz’s next generation of innovators: Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Kendrick Scott, and many others.
From 2006-2008, Gerald toured extensively with Roy Hargrove in his quintet, big band, and funk group; he is currently a member of the Clayton Brothers Quintet. He can be heard on the Clayton Brothers’ latest release, Brother to Brother, as well as Hargrove’s 2008 Earfood, and Diana Krall’s From This Moment On. Gerald and his trio have released their debut album, Two Shade, on the ArtistShare label.
Since the mid-1980s, Dan Ouellette has been writing about music for a variety of publications--reviewing and critiquing albums and shows, profiling artists ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Astor Piazzolla to Frank Zappa, and commenting on the evolving world of the recording industry. Dan started writing for DownBeat, the jazz magazine Bible, in 1987 and has been a regular contributor since. In the last few years he filed cover stories on Brad Mehldau, Michael Brecker, the Saxophone Summit, Ravi Coltrane, Charlie Hunter-Bobby Previte, Dave Douglas, Joshua Redman, Elvis Costello-Allen Toussaint, Esbjorn Svenson Trio, Keith Jarrett, Norah Jones, Jane Monheit, Regina Carter and Dee Dee Bridgewater. He writes the monthly “The Question Is…” column and contributes frequently to DownBeat's “Blindfold Test” page. Dan moderates “live” DownBeat-sponsored Blindfold Tests in front of an audience, including those at the International Association for Jazz Educators conference, in July at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands and in September at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
As the Jazz Notes columnist for Billboard for five years (2003-08), Dan reported on the jazz world-profiling new and veteran artists, breaking news on record companies, and weighing in on various subjects ranging from post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans to Wynton Marsalis' status in the jazz world at large. In addition to his columns, he contributed features and reviews.
Dan has been a contributing editor at Stereophile and a regular contributor to Acoustic Guitar and Strings magazines. His writing has appeared in Salon, Pulse!, The New Yorker (special sections), Playboy (Japan), Mediaweek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He has also been the jazz consultant for Napster for the past five years. Dan recently started writing a monthly music column at abcnews.com.
In addition to writing, Dan served as the music editor of several Schwann publications, including Schwann Spectrum and Schwann Inside, the monthly jazz and classical magazine. He has traveled the world to report on jazz and popular music. His jaunts have taken him to Mali, Africa; Cape Town, South Africa; Beijing, China; Melbourne, Australia; Molde, Norway; Perugia, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; Marciac, France; The Hague and Rotterdam, in the Netherlands; and on the Queen Elizabeth 2 for its “floating” jazz festival that traveled from New York to Southampton, England. He has covered music events throughout Canada (including Montreal, Vancouver and Quebec City) and the U.S. (including New York, San Francisco, Cleveland, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and in the Mississippi Delta).
Dan has moderated panels at IAJE, the Monterey Jazz Festival, The North Sea Jazz Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival. He is a longstanding member of the Jazz Journalists Association and the New York Circle Critics Poll.
In 1999, Dan moved from San Francisco, where he comprehensively covered the Bay Area music scene for several years, to New York, where he is now based. He lives part-time on Shelter Island, at the eastern end of Long Island, where he finds the quiet and relaxed atmosphere conducive to writing.
Even though the subject matter seems quite at odds with his expertise and reputation in the popular music world, Dan wrote the book, The Volkswagen Bug Book: A Celebration of Beetle Culture (Angel City Press, 1999). While its subject matter is steered by the Bug, it's also heavily indebted to music.
In 2009, ArtistShare published Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes, Dan’s biography of legendary jazz bassist. For more information, see http://danouellette.artistshare.com or danouellette.net.
Picture of Dan Ouellette ©Stuart Brinin.