James Dean Claitor
Quietly, for many years, Fairfield’s prolific multi-instrumentalist James Dean Claitor has been conjuring jazz, blues, and chill-out electronica music at his Louisiana sound studio. His most recent CD release, Pseudonyms, has received positive critical reviews. So it’s time to explore Claitor as another treasure of the Fairfield music scene.
A part-time Fairfield resident, James Dean Claitor (JDC) was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he manages properties that are frequently leased by the film industry and creates new music at his sound studio. James began studying bass at a young age, eventually learning several instruments, including guitar and keyboards. During high school he auditioned for the bass guitar position for Tempest, replacing Randy Jackson. (Jackson later joined Dr. John and Journey.)
In the past several years, JDC has moved toward improvisational soft jazz while collaborating with several prominent musicians, including Michel Martineau (clarinet) and Dave Panico (known as the Soaring Saxman). Most of JDC’s musical activities take place through networking on SoundCloud.com, which is where he met collaborators Mark Dorricott and Mario Scala in London, Michel Martineau in Canada, and other musicians, producers, and songwriters scattered around the globe.
In a recent interview, James described the creative process that has allowed him to write 175 songs since 2011: “Each day, after meditating, I feel a certain clarity, an insight into what’s happening around me, and often that gets expressed as a melody or a sequence of music that appears in my mind. Often it will only last a short time, so I hope to capture it before it evaporates—which is why I write songs so quickly in just a day or two. I sometimes have to rush into it before it disappears like morning dew.”
On TILTmag.com, music blogger Robbie Metcalf describes Pseudonyms as a “cool, jazzy, totally fun ride. Fans of his have grown to expect this sort of free feeling from JDC. It’s what makes him great.” My favorite track is “Gustavo,” featuring the soaring clarinet of Martineau swinging confidently across JDC’s backdrop of electronic keyboards, vibes, and dobro. For more bliss, listen next to “Caress,” an improvisational journey that begins with swirling electronic wind chimes (perhaps inspired by Brian Eno) and then transforms into a pleasant syncopated bounce tossed back and forth between keyboards and vibes. Dave Panico’s sax takes the lead on “Buongiorno Baby,” surrounded by the interplay of JDC’s electric guitar and keyboards, with Baton Rouge native Grant Jolly on drums. The CD has other treats, too, like “Swamp Guitar,” which was originally composed for a film soundtrack. Every time I hear it, visions arise of Louisana bayou and gators on the prowl.
For additional splendid tracks, check out “Santa Monica Incline” and “Walmart Desperation,” both of which seem to fit so well as part of my imaginary soundtrack about James on a California trip to pitch one of his screenplays. To sample JDC’s vocal talents, listen to the title track from CD Allegedly in Love.
While James was a student at MUM in the 1980s, he wrote a song called “Open Book,” which was recently recorded with collaborator Paul Fauerso. Paul and James also worked together on “Invisible Man” for a film project. Over the years, James has worked with local songwriters and musicians, including Crista, Gene Garfin, Will Gunn, David Brown, David Randall, Phil D’Agostino, and Phil Goddard.
It’s good to know how JDC fits into the rich music history of Fairfield. Now, do yourself a favor and explore the music of James Dean Claitor.
Join Andy on Fringe Toast every Wednesday, 8-10 p.m., Central Standard Time, on KRUU FM 100.1 in Fairfield, Iowa.