Saxophone, EWI, Music Composition & Production

I began in music like many people, by taking band lessons starting in 5th grade. My instrument of choice at that time was trumpet. Over the first few years I also played piano, cello, baritone horn, french horn, viola and numerous other instruments. I continued with trumpet into college. At that time I developed some embouchure problems and had to take a long period of time to try to get back to where I was. The orchestra leader at Bethel College suggested that I pick up another instrument as a sort of therapy while I struggled through the embouchure problems on trumpet. I had always wanted to play saxophone and in fact admired alto players like Jay Beckenstein (Spyro Gyra), Tom Scott, David Sanborn, Phil Woods as well as early jazz guys like Cannonball Adderly, Hank Crawford and others.

I immediately fell in love with the feeling and sound of playing saxophone and have been at it ever since. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of playing with a wide variety of local and national acts, touring the world, and recording on hundreds of projects from albums to TV and movie soundtracks.

I had always admired the expressive sound of Tom Scott’s Lyricon from the time I first heard it in the late 70’s and wanted to explore the world of wind synthesis. Around the time I contacted the inventor of the Lyricon, Michael Brecker showed up on the scene playing what was then called the Steinerphone, after it’s inventor, Nyle Steiner. I got in touch with Nyle and he indicated that Akai Professional had licensed his instrument and would produce a commercial version of it in the coming months. In late 1986 I took delivery of my first EWI and it has been one of my main voices since that time. I have all of the versions of the EWI and still have a love of the very first model, the EWI 1000.

In 2005 I was contacted by Akai to participate on the beta team in the development of the Akai EWI 4000s, a completely new version of the instrument. This led to continued work with Akai as their EWI demonstration artist which sent me around the world demonstrating the instrument. It also served as an introduction to a host of Los Angeles based musicians, composers and producers interested in using the instrument in film, TV and other scoring. You can see a video of me demonstrating the Akai EWI 4000s at NAMM 2006 right here.

Currently I play with quite a few bands including the all-star 15-piece Steely Dan tribute band Steely Dane.

Clay’s Equipment

After my first alto, a student model Cleveland broke in the middle of a gig in 1985, I tried a lot of horns and settled on a vintage Selmer Mark VI. A lot of people consider these to be the best, most characteristic horns ever made and when it comes to alto, I would have to agree with that. In 1994 that original Selmer got stolen so I set out to find another that was very close to the date of manufacture as the first (1964). The one I found is even better than the first one. I now play that Selmer Mark VI, a custom ARB mouthpiece and Vandoren Java Green 2.5 reeds.

I have two soprano saxes, one straight and one curved. The curved model is a Conn nickle-plated horn from the 1940’s that was lovingly refurbished by my sax technician. It has a really nice, warm sound. My straight soprano is a Yanigisawa and it is a beautiful, bright horn. The mechanics on that horn are just amazing. I play a Dukoff D8, Rovner ligature and LaVoz Medium reeds on soprano.

My tenor is also a Selmer Mark VI fitted with a Theo Wanne Datta 8 mouthpiece and Theo Wanne ligature. I use Woodstone reeds on tenor.

My EWI set ups are fairly complex, but the two I use most often are the EWI1000/EWV2000 original Akai EWI modified by Nyle Steiner, with a hardware rack that has various synths and effects in it including Roland XV2080, Roland D550, Oberheim Matrix 1000 synthesizers and an Akai MB-76 line mixer. My EWI 4000s set up uses an audio and midi wireless to communicate with Logic and Mainstage running on a MacBook Pro. I use hundreds of instruments within Logic and Reason.

Believing Is Seeing

A holiday album with a purpose

In 2000 I took a trip to India. What I saw and experienced there influenced me very deeply. Earlier that year I had been contacted by Fahrenheit Records about the possibility of doing a holiday record. I had been working on a solo CD at that time and thought that should take priority but another idea surfaced – to make a holiday CD for the benefit of impoverished children in India. I recorded the CD very quickly over two months playing most of the parts myself. It was then placed in the gift marketplace where its first and second pressings sold out. It is no longer available but I have placed the tracks here for you to listen to as well as a link to download the entire thing if you like.

All of the proceeds from this CD went directly to World Vision to benefit children in India. If you would like to make a contribution, or even sponsor a child through World Vision in exchange for this recording, that would be great. You can do that on the World Vision website.

Hear more…

If you’d like to hear more you can visit and/or subscribe to my SoundCloud channel.

Years of Experience


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