Brooklyn based guitarist and composer Clay Ross is carving a unique niche for himself on the international music scene. His passion for music has taken him far from his South Carolina roots and lead him to embrace influences from around the world. He has toured world-wide as a U.S. Jazz Ambassador and as a member of Cyro Baptista’s world renowned percussion ensemble “Beat the Donkey.” With his own group, “Matuto,” Clay mixes bluegrass and brazilian percussion, for a sound like a Carnival in the Appalachian Mountains.
After studying classical composition at the College of Charleston, Clay became an integral part of the South Carolina jazz scene. Mixing elements of rock, blues, bluegrass, and funk, his original groups were highly praised in the local press and popular on the regional club circuit. With his bands “Otus,” “Gradual Lean,” and “Mickey Baker Project,” Clay developed his chops and shared the stage with national acts including John Scofield, Derek Trucks, and Maceo Parker.
After a brief move to Paris, and a few memorable performances in the Pigalle Squats, Clay moved to NYC in 2002. There, he honed his skills with the city’s most amazing young talents. He recorded and released the jazz quartet album “The Random Puller,” which featured nine original compositions. The album met with critical praise and won Ross invitations to perform internationally at clubs and concert halls in Rio De Janeiro, Istanbul, and Milan. It also helped him to secure regular performances at established NYC venues such as 55bar, Barbes, The Bar Next Door, and The Stone.
Shortly after arriving in NYC, Clay began exploring an increasing love for Brazilian Music. In 2004 he co-founded the “Agora Quartet,” a group that combines jazz and northeastern Brazilian rhythms. The group won the prestigious opportunity to tour as a part of Lincoln Center’s Rhythm Road program. Winning over a distinguished panel of judges that included Ray Barretto, Hilton Ruiz, and Bruce Barth, the group embarked on a State Department sponsored tour through Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, and Turkey. Clay has since completed four successful tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Most recently leading his group through a six week residency in Recife, Brazil.
In 2005, Clay was invited to become a full time member of Cyro Baptista’s “Beat the Donkey,” and received critical praise for performances at major concert halls and music festivals around the world.
In 2007, Clay joined the group “Nation Beat,” for the Porto Musical Festival during Carnival in Recife, Brazil. There, he participated in an unprecedented cultural exchange with the traditional “maracatu” percussion group Estrella Brillante. Clay is a featured guest on Nation Beat’s new album “Legends of the Preacher” (modiba), and is now working to define a sound that combines Northeastern Brazilian Rhythms and American Folk.
After traveling in Brazil, Clay returned with a pan-american perspective on his country roots. “Matuto” is Brazilian slang for Country Bumpkin. It’s the name of Clay Ross’ new Album and Band. It’s where exotic Brazilian percussion instruments commingle with blues drenched vocals and country fiddle tunes. It’s a sound you may recognize, but like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
In 2009, Clay returned to Recife. This time leading his own group on a U.S. Embassy sponsored residency. This group met with critical praise for performances at concert halls and major festivals throughout the region. Performing during the hight of Carnaval in the heart of the city, the group was praised for its dynamic and animated performances. One prominent reviewer published “Clay Ross demonstrated that not all Americans with the will to be Brazilian are boring. His sound mixes the Old West and the Brazlian Desert in a stylized way, but it’s all so much fun that it doesn’t sound artificial.”