He has performed and recorded with Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Kendrick Scott, Ben Williams, Terell Stafford & Dick Oatts, Michael Rodriguez, Avishai Cohen, Sachal Vasandani, Gretchen Parlato, and the Clayton Brothers Quintet. Clayton also has enjoyed an extended association since early 2013, touring and recording with saxophone legend, Charles Lloyd. 2016 marks his second year as Musical Director of the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour, a project that features his trio with Ravi Coltrane, Nicolas Payton, and Raul Midón.
In 2012 and 2013 Clayton received Grammy nomations for The Paris Sessions (Concord) and Life Forum (Concord). In 2010, he was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition for "Battle Circle", which is featured on the Clayton Brothers album, New Song and Dance. In 2009, he was nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for his solo on Cole Porter's "All of You" from his debut album, Two-Shade. His nomination competed with established jazz musicians Terence Blanchard and Roy Hargrove, with whom Clayton toured for several years.
The Clayton Brothers' Brother to Brother received a nomination in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Gerald Clayton plays piano on the album, which holds loosely to a theme of songs that were made famous by Thad, Hank and Elvin Jones. Clayton's piano playing was described by Ben Ratliff of The New York Times as "[filling] up the available space" with Clayton "busying himself with prettiness and authority." Ratliff continued, "If you've listened to much hard bop or mainstream jazz of the early '60s, you might find some easygoing clichés in his playing – or maybe even an awful lot of them – but they are smoothly rendered. More important, the friendly rhetoric of this music allows them."
Clayton is the son of jazz bassist John Clayton.