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 have been part of the Madison and Milwaukee music scene for more than 30 years. Many of those years were spent with The O’bros with whom I recorded the CD “It’s About Time,” produced by Butch Vig. I also played, recorded and toured with Madison singer/songwriter Robert J, including the hit single “It’s You” which featured my sax and rose to regular rotation on the radio, as well as dozens of other Madison-based bands over the years.

Back and 1994, a single from my first solo record “Meant To Be” climbed to #19 on the adult contemporary jazz charts. I saw a different kind of chart when another song “One More Chance” rose to #9 in Japan in 2008. My horns have been featured on many albums and commercial recordings. I’ve also played live with many renown artists including Michael McDonald, Aaron Neville, Burt Bacharach, Tony Orlando and Peabo Bryson, to name a few.

You’ve most likely my EWI (Electronic Woodwind Instrument) playing on network television shows and feature films. I have played the EWI since 1986 and have recorded with it on more than thirty records, nine feature films, and hundreds of episodes of network television. Additionally, my pre-recorded EWI passages (stems) have found their way into countless advertisements, songs, videos, TV, film and other applications.

In 2005 Akai Professional, the manufacturer of the EWI brought me on as part of a team to help develop and test a new model of the EWI. The result was the release of the EWI 4000s in 2006. After the instrument’s release Akai kept me on to demonstrate the EWI worldwide at trade shows like NAMM, where I made many valuable industry connections. You can see a video of me demonstrating the Akai EWI 4000s at NAMM 2006 right here.

Currently I play in residence at the Rio All-Suite Resort and Casion with the yacht rock revue “The Docksiders.” You can also see The Docksiders touring the country in our off weeks.

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 (1968). The one I found is even better than the first one. I now play that Selmer Mark VI with a Theo Wanne Durga 8 gold-plated mouthpiece using 2.5 Rigotti Wild 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 Durga 7* gold-plated mouthpiece . I use Vandoren Java Green 2.5 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 dozens of instruments within Logic and Reason.

Most recently I started playing the NuRad EWI from Berglund Instruments. It’s a hand-build instrument with incredibly expressive capabilities.

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