“I love what Clif does. He's the best...and he'll make you feel all the love.”
— Pete Turner, Break It Down Show
Pop music superstar Katy Perry, Grammy winning trumpeter Chris Botti and two-time Grammy nominee jazz pianist Taylor Eigsti are among the celebs who have been in Clif's audiences.
Clif has performed with Freda Payne, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Norman Connors, Bobby McFerrin, Ellis Hall, Sheena Easton, American Idol judge & vocal coach Peggy Blu, Four Play drummer Harvey Mason, jazz fusionists Hiroshima and former Chicago vocalist Bill Champlin. Clif has opened for Dan Siegel, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Dionne Warwick.
Clif was born in the Harlem Sugar Hill area of Harlem and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. His eclectic vocals span the genres of jazz, R&B, gospel, blues, rock, folk, pop and classical.
"I frequently use the 'jazz' description because it allows me to be me:
A singer who loves to be eclectic & expressive in a variety of musical genres." CP
Clif is "a lush tenor with soaring melismas in his individual passages."
Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times.
In 2016, Clif released his debut solo album--Welcome To My World--that also features a Clif/Freda duet-"No Payne, No Gain." She is best known for her hit song "Band Of Gold." A dance mix of "No Payne, No Gain" produced by the UK's Nigel Lowis was on the 2016 Grammy ballot for nomination for Best R&B Vocal. "No Payne, No Gain," written by R&B Hall of Fame inductee Preston Glass ("Miss You Like Crazy, "Don't Make Me Wait For Love") spent 2 weeks at the top of the Soul/R&B charts in Great Britain, receiving the title of UK’s Soul Song of the Year. In August 2016, Clif and Freda performed their duet live in LA at Herb Alpert's Club Vibrato. Also on Welcome To My World are original En Vogue vocalist Maxine Jones and Midnight Star's Reggie Calloway. Welcome To My World was produced Preston Glass, and Grammy orchestra music director Larry Batiste.
The power trio of Glass, Batiste and Payne reunite for his 2018 release - TOO!
Dynamic Duets - Clif teams up with an array of musical legends including George Benson and Little Anthony on this Preston Glass-produced album.
Love and Compassion - produced by Glass includes a track featuring The Manhattan's Gerald Alston and Clif's Welcome To My World track,
"Peace Is More (Than The Absence of War)."
Disco Soul Gold - the #1 R&B/Soul album in the UK for 2017, was produced by Nigel Lowis and includes the dance mix of "No Payne, No Gain."
A musical epiphany for Clif occurred back in the 1970s upon hearing a 45-rpm record of Donny Hathaway, "Jealous Guy," from the Donny Hathaway Live record. "I was floored! So, I went out and bought the whole album!”
Bobby McFerrin is credited with "discovering" Clif, who saw McFerrin singing at a club one California evening. Clif went in, talked with Bobby during a break and talked McFerrin into singing with him. Bobby asked Clif, "Are You good?" Clif replied, "Yes!" Bobby then asked, "Are you REAL Good??" Clif said, "Yes!!" At the start of the next set, McFerrin introduced Clif to the audience and then let Payne, "do his thang!" The audience response was so great that McFerrin sang with Clif and invited him to be the special guest at McFerrin's next gig. At that gig, he gave Clif his first California gig as a soloist.
Music figures prominently in Clif's family. His father, James "Buddy" Payne was a reedsman who gigged with jazz legends Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson and participated in the Harlem Renaissance. Clif's mother was a talented vocalist who once backed Nat "King" Cole in a vocal ensemble. The Payne family lived in the same apartment building that, at the same time, was also home to Duke Ellington and drummer Cozy Cole (Ringo Starr's favorite drummer). Ellington lived on the 4th floor, the Payne Family and Cole lived on the 3rd floor, circa 1954. The apartment building located at 935 St. Nicholas St. in Harlem is now a designated national landmark.
Shandra Bennett, Clif's cousin, is a background vocalist with country superstar Martina McBride.
Clif as Vocal Coach & Teacher