Sean Layton: Walking before daylight
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
He was the quiet one, but the silence he has left behind
has carved a cavern in the Tulsa music scene that will not
be easily filled.
Sean Layton, 29, an immensely talented Tulsa drummer,
died last weekend, ending a career that invigorated the
creative spirits of countless local musicians and music
A funeral took place Monday morning, but the real
tribute occurred that night at Living Arts of Tulsa when
dozens of Layton's friends and fellow musicians — one and
the same, in most cases — conducted a drumming circle in
Layton was the first drummer for the Jacob Fred Jazz
Odyssey. After leaving the band in '99, he joined Steve
Pryor's Neighbors, which also included Jacob Fred bassist
Reed Mathis (who is already planning a retrospective
tribute CD of Layton's songs). Until several months ago,
Layton was ubiquitous in the Tulsa music scene, providing
the pulse for projects from Mummy Weenie to Leslie Brown.
I have interviewed Layton maybe a half dozen times. He
rarely spoke up, but when he did, it always mattered. It
was usually the last word on a particular subject. I
remember a typically circuitous interview with all seven
members of Jacob Fred, a discussion of the band's reasons
for recording all of its records live. Layton seized a rare
pause in the harangue and said, "We're just a live band and
there's nothing we can do about it." End of discussion.
For Layton, that's how life and music was — a spiritual
compulsion. He spoke little about his art, choosing to
channel all those things he couldn't do anything about into
his drumming and singing. His work on kits for the
Neighbors was certainly enough, but in that band he began
to expand his talents into composing and singing. His voice
was unmistakable — a lot of Leon Redbone and a little
Charlie Brown. He sang beautiful lyrics capturing his awe
at everything from the majesty of a forest to the dancers
It's those positive messages his friends will remember
"I went and looked at my bookshelf after I heard that he
died," said Jacob Fred keyboardist Brian Haas this week.
"There are at least 30 titles in there that he gave to me.
He spread so much knowledge and goodness in his life. He
also introduced me to so many people I know in the Tulsa
music scene. He affected my life in ways that will always
be remembered and deeply, deeply appreciated."
As a mere listener, I am cautious about claiming that a
musician affected my life as deeply as he did a fellow
player. Then again, those of us in the crowd are who
they're making the music for, and it is their mission to
affect us. Layton never failed to lift my spirit, and I
rest easier believing at least that his is now lifted as
high as it can go.
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These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.