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Mike Clark Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 1

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Album Review

Drummer Mike Clark has run the gamut of grist-of-the-mill modern jazz and funk on a handful of recordings, best represented on his 1989 Stash CD, Give the Drummer Some. This album exceeds all his previous dates with regard to the vitality of this music, the high-level musicianship of all the players, and the fact that Clark happily wears his influences on his sleeve. You hear clear references to Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Elvin Jones in his playing, while stylistically Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw come to mind. The result is retro hard bop made current by the ferocious playing of the band, which includes alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Christian Scott, and bassist Christian McBride. Earning high honors are tenor saxophonist and composer Jed Levy and especially pianist Patrice Rushen, who emerges from the shadows of her commercially oriented life to provide a truly stellar, inspired, and driven performance on acoustic piano. The CD kicks off with two outstanding pieces, both penned by Levy, and never lets up until the end. "In the House" is hard bop personified à la McCoy Tyner, similar to the classic "Milestones," and has tenor man and composer Levy channeling John Coltrane cum Joe Lovano. The superlative "Like That" mixes and matches modal jazz styles, commanded by the outstanding rhythm section, with Rushen assimilating a Native American idea very much in the spirit of Don Pullen. Clark wrote or co-wrote three of these pieces, and acknowledges assistance from fellow drummer/composer Towner Galaher. "Loft Funk" suggests the R&B beat Clark earned early recognition for via work with Herbie Hancock, but is a clear adaptation of the theme from the Eddie Harris evergreen "Freedom Jazz Dance," with Rushen and McBride digging in. "Morning Becomes Electra" is co-written with Galaher and sounds like a latter-period Jazz Messengers tune when Harrison was with them. "Conchita's Dance" refers to the Woody Shaw/Louis Hayes book of music in stance and dynamics, as Rushen's ringing chords drive the group onward. "Past Lives" claims a lot of street cred, whereas Scott's influences of Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Shaw, and especially Terence Blanchard come to the fore here and during his feature, the loose post-bop "Clark Kent." The sound of Wynton Marsalis is also a factor during the sly and deep underground track "10th Ave. 1957," with Harrison's film noir alto up front. In appreciation of Blakey, "Thanks Len" shuffles along in a style that is clearly copped, but with love and respect. An excellent effort for Clark and this band, it comes easily recommended to those whose mainstream jazz jones needs a quick fix or a revitalized pump up. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews


I just caught Mike Clark with Dave Stryker and James Genus at The Iridium in New York and I had to buy this disc to hear more of Mike's fabulous phrasing and swing! The first cut alone is worth the price of admission. Listen to the taste in Mike's swing and his phrasing is second to none. If you like your music upbeat and swingin' don't hesitate. Highly recommended.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active:

Drummer Mike Clark is well known as the drummer for Herbie Hancock's funk-jazz outfit the Headhunters, and headed up the group after Hancock left to pursue other projects. But Clark goes far beyond playing simple R&B rhythms, becoming one of the more astute contemporary jazz drummers who also writes his own music. Born October 3, 1946, in Sacramento, CA, Clark began his professional career at age six in New Orleans, dipping into blues, soul, and jazz. As a youth, he split time between Texas and Northern...
Full Bio
Mike Clark Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 1, Mike Clark
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Feb 03, 2009

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