She was born Eileen Agnes Clayton, but everybody just calls her ‘Lenny,’ including the jazz station DJs spinning “her record.”
At just three-and-a-half years old, Lenny isn’t a musical prodigy. She’s the daughter of Humber alum and soul jazz pianist Jim Clayton and the motivation behind his fifth album, Songs My Daughter Knows. The album is climbing the U.S. jazz charts.
The 10 tracks on the album Clayton refers to as his “labour of love,” are the musical touchstones of their first year as father and daughter.
“The songs are very much inspired by her experiences and her reactions,” Clayton said.
“Rainbow Connection”, for example, “is the first tune I ever played for her,” he said.
“We brought her home from the hospital and almost right away I wanted to see if my favourite pop song of all time generated, elicited some reaction. Of course she just sat there and drooled ’cuz she was just three or four days old.”
Lenny is the first of three things Clayton pointed to as major influences on this album and his musical career as a whole. The second is the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, where Songs was recorded.
“If New Orleans hadn’t figured into it I don’t know if I would have made the record. There’s such a joy to (music) down there,” he said.
Every time the Claytons visit New Orleans they reconnect with old friends, some of whom Jim met while attending Humber, his third influence.
“Every opportunity I’ve had in music has stemmed from somebody I met attending Humber,” Clayton said.
The success he is having with Songs is coming as no surprise to one of his former instructors, Brian Dickinson, head of keyboard at Humber’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.
Dickinson remembered Clayton as being a hard worker when he taught him two decades ago. “He did what he was supposed to do and it’s paying off,” he said.
The payoff has been coming in the form of massive critical success for Songs. “The reviews have been 100 per cent really good,” Clayton said. The record is currently ranked 25th on CMJ magazine’s top 40 jazz radio chart.
One review, however, stands out above all the others. Lenny likes all of the songs on “her record,” but “Grouch Anthem” is her favourite.