Like so many other musicians, the COVID pandemic forced Toronto jazz pianist Jim Clayton (shown above with daughter Lenny) to pivot from his normal touring and performing schedule. In March 2020 he launched a nightly music show on Facebook – probably never imagining that the project would take on a life of its own.
From those humble beginnings, Jim’s Piano Bar is now approaching its 500th episode, and Jim’s audience has grown from 250 subscribers to over 30,000 listeners from all over the world. When asked about the experience, he says, “The messages from folks from all over the world are what really stand out. Some were just thank-you emails; others were heavier, like the one asking me to dedicate a song to their spouse who’d passed away.”
He continues, “There was one specific day that sticks with me: I’d been doing the online Piano Bar for several weeks, and thought I’d take an evening off, for no particular reason. But that afternoon I received a message from a nurse in Argentina, who told me how she listened to me at work, and my music helped her get through 12-hour shifts as a hospital nurse during the peak of the pandemic. And my first thought was, if she can do that, surely I can play the piano for an hour. So I did, and I wound up doing the first 150 shows without a night off.”
To celebrate this milestone, Jim is dedicating a special edition of the show to a performance of rousing jazz standards, reinvented pop classics, and special guest performers. Even better, all of the funds donated via the show’s tip jar in the month of December will be donated to Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank – a charity with particular resonance for Jim.
“In 1992, after my first year of “jazz college”, my student loan money ran out a few days before my first summer-job paycheque came in, and there was nothing but salt and pepper in my cupboards,” he says. “I heard about a food bank not far from me, and wound up with a box of groceries that tided me over. It was a godsend to have that help, and although I only needed that help the one time, the memory is vivid. It was miserable, even as a young guy, in the summer, no kids. So I can’t imagine what it would be like for a family to go through that during the holidays.”
This very special episode of Jim’s Piano Bar will broadcast tonight (Thursday, 16 December) at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/JimClaytonJazz). We encourage you to tune in, and to give as you can. For a preview, check out the video below.
Jim Clayton’s Piano Bar airs every Thursday through Monday at 9 pm ET on Facebook.
Photo credit: Tracey Nolan