Mike Clark's Blueprints of Jazz
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Mike Clark's Blueprints of Jazz


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"Clark has us salivating at the sight of his drum sticks," Jazz Times

"Incredible! The solo he played on Actual Proof is one of the best drum solos on any of my albums," Herbie Hancock

"The father of East Bay grease has released a relentlessly grooving session that's as satisfying for the brain as for the feet" Valley Times

"Can't thank you enough - one of the best live groups we've had in here," Chuck Horn WDET Detroit

"Funk drummer extraordinaire," Billboard

"We were happily able to contribute to one of the most packed crowds at the Bowery Ballroom we have ever seen!" Jambase NYC

"Mike Clark's new album Actual Proof - up ample proof that the genre still has plenty of kick, thanks to Clark's hard drive and consummate musicianship," Washington Post

"The first Monday of July will undoubtedly be a milestone in the history of funk shows at the Fox Theatre, legendary drummer Mike Clark will be arriving with his latest touring group Prescription Renewal," Boulder Weekly

"Clark is as comfortable behind a straight-ahead jazz combo in a nightclub as he is elevated on a platform in front of thousands of people, he has become a guru to an emerging generation," San Francisco Weekly

"Clark somehow manages to develop a style that organically blends the excitement of funk, with the invention and improvisation of jazz," Alternative Press

"Mike Clark's Prescription Renewal added an inspiring dose of rootsy fresh funk to the main stage [Berkshire Music Fest]," Boston Globe

"Clark is every bit as comfortable playing straightahead jazz as he is mining the deepest of grooves," All About Jazz

"He plays the lights out of the album - unsung drum hero," Downbeat

"Thrust's music is more complex than that of the Headhunters' debut, partly due to original drummer Harvey Mason's replacement by the flashier Mike Clark. The opener, "Palm Grease," is an infectious groove, with Paul Jackson's bassline anticipating the hook of Parliament's "Do that Stuff." In his notes, Clark recounts how he fought (successfully) with producer David Rubinson for the right to play an intricate-and-interactive beat in "Actual Proof," which is actually its saving grace," Eye - Jazzola - Misc.

"Headhunter to head his own"

"Mike Clark's Organ Trio"

Mike Clark - drums | Jed Levy - sax | Jerry-Z - organ

Headhunter to head his own

The ever active drummer Mike Clark is hitting the road with another top notch group of musicians. While the "chops" will still be there, now they will be fueled by fresh compositions. "The Mike Clark Organ Trio" will include Jerry Z on organ and Jed Levy on sax. They have already collaborated on new material - which will be featured amidst some classics (songs drawn from will include "Chameleon," "Watermelon Man" and others from Headhunters, with whom Clark toured in January) on what promises to be a landmark tour.

Clark always carefully selects his band mates. The boundless compositional creativity of Jerry Z and Jed Levy has inspired him, and rekindled his own interest in the pen. However, they are each also deft at creating in the moment, and whether old or new, the song structures will serve as springboards into the delightful unknown which is the muse of the improvisational musician. Jerry Z has worked with Melvin Sparks and toured with the most recent incarnation of the Headhunters. After a recent Headhunters gig, Glide Magazine wrote of his "super sized keyboard skills." Levy is a twenty-year veteran of the New York Jazz scene, and a familiar face at legendary NYC Jazz venues like Birdland, the Blue Note and Sweet Basil. A recent Washington Post review of Levy's "Sleight of Hand" indicates why Levy too is an ideal Clark band mate. "(Levy) extracts a full, clear tone from his tenor, phrases melodies fluidly and improvises, on original pieces as well as standards, with an appealing blend of logic and invention. For all its surprises and twists, his music never sounds forced or gimmicky." Levy is also known for his work with Jaki Byard, Don Patterson and Jack McDuff.

With this trio, Mike Clark has found his own way home. While it may not have the name recognition of some of his stunning touring lineups of recent years, composing together has provided a rich chemistry between these three. "We wrote some very funky stuff that lends itself to improvisation," Clark said, "It is very loose, yet still powerful. The bomb will be hearing and feeling the groove and the interactions as the trio has its musical dialogue. Most of all the blues informs everything we play so at the end of the day grease will be dripping through everything, even the ballads. These are the New York cats – the best in the business."

The Headhunters, for whom he drummed for may years, are widely credited for breaking new ground by soulfully blending the modern funk sound with jazz, rock, world and various other styles. Many of their pieces have become jazz and/or funk standards. Their self-titled, 1973 release with Hancock is still widely acknowledged as having spawned a whole genre of music. On 2003's Evolution Revolution an updated version of the Headhunters with Clark, Bill Summers and Paul Jackson was joined by Nicholas Payton, Donald Harrison, George Porter Jr. and Irvin Mayfield and their incredible musical synergy was brought into a contemporary context.


Shimon Presents, Inc. | 126 Terrace Dr. Suite D | Atlanta, GA 30305 | 404-467-8520 - Press Release

"Featured Artist: Mike Clark"

Featured Artist: Mike Clark

CD Cover - Link to Artist's Site
CD Title: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1

Year: 2008

Record Label: Talking House Records

Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic

Musicians: Mike Clark (drums), Christian McBride (bass), Patrice Rushen (piano), Christian Scott (trumpet), Donald Harrison (alto sax), Jed Levy (tenor sax)


Certain jazz artists will never - no matter how tastefully they approach their instrument, no matter how accomplished their technique, no matter how insightful and well-constructed their improvised conceptions - receive the recognition they deserve. There is no good, honest and equitable reason for this. That leaves the job of, hopefully, turning the public onto these artists to critics.

With that said, the inaugural release of the new Talking House Records Blueprints of Jazz series, Mike Clark, Vol. 1., contains music by an ensemble of jazz heavyweights who all deserve not just wider appeal, but more recognition within the genre. The date is lead by the superb jazz drummer, Clark. During his creative life, he has spent time with musicians as divergent as Herbie Hancock, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, Wayne Shorter, Woody Shaw, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Bill Doggett and Mose Allison.

A true artist drummer/percussionist, Clark’s playing throughout is tightly focused on bringing out the best in his fellow instrumentalists. Like Buddy Rich, Clark leads strongly from the drum throne, yet never overshadows his cohort’s ideas or conceptions. Clark’s rich handiwork includes brilliant cymbal playing behind up-and-coming trumpeter Stephen Scott on “Like That,” as well as a beautifully laidback and sparse approach to “10th Ave. 1957” that can only come from years of paying dues and the maturity to bring that experience to the fore.

The other musicians are rife with real-world knowledge and the wisdom to make their contributions work in symbiosis with each other. While her work in R&B, soul and funk has kept her out of the jazz spotlight, pianist Patrice Rushen demonstrates why she need not be overlooked. Displaying a knack for not just voicing chords in the most appropriate manner to elevate her surroundings, Rushen also has that rare ability, so aptly demonstrated by Thelonious Monk, of being able to use dynamics within phrases to emphasize internal points of meaning and harmonic convergence. Multiple listening of her work on the up-tempo swinger “Thanks Len” and the hip “Clark Kent” will reward the listener with new insights to her genius on each pass.

Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison’s gritty style provides wonderful contrast to tenor saxophonist Jed Levy’s more bluesy approach. Their interplay, trading and elaborating on each other’s ideas throughout, is sincerely joyous. Bassist Christian McBride’s strong rhythmic conception is demonstrated perfectly on “Past Lives.” His ability to stay metrically flawless, yet create lines of seamless grandeur, shows why he is so respected and is holding such a prominent role at this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival.

The choice of music selected for this disc is some of the most complex and intensely serious jazz pieces any listener could ever run across, and there is no way they could have been so strongly rendered if not performed by the assembled cream of jazz’s elite. This disc is not for the faint of heart, but for those seeking out the state of jazz today, this disc is a perfect place to start.

Tracks: In The House, Like That, 10th Ave. 1957, Past Lives, Thanks Len, Loft Funk, Clark Kent, Conchita's Dance, Morning Became Electra and I Want To Talk About You

Record Label Website: http://www.threcords.com/

Artist's Website: http://www.mikeclarkmusic.com/

Reviewed by: Thomas R. Erdmann - Jazz Preview.com

"Mike Clark's Organ Trio plays for 'Peanuts' no more"

Mike Clark's Organ Trio plays for 'Peanuts' no more

Special to The Post and Courier

Mike Clark is among the most vital jazz drummers of the past half-century.

Of course, because he plays jazz - a genre which accounts for less than 5 percent of annual U.S. album sales - you've probably never heard of him.

At best, his music enters the average American household once a year, and only briefly, on the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

"Everybody loves that music," said Clark of the commercial recordings he made with band leader Vince Guaraldi in 1970, "but at the time, I didn't see what was so special.

It was just a little jingle, just little rhymes. Vince didn't even have anything written down. He just kicked off with these little melodies and we put some grooves to them."

The fact that Clark's commercial successes frequently come from projects reflecting but a fraction of his true art is no uncommon irony for a jazz musician, and Clark wastes no breath whining about the state of the game.

"Ever since I graduated high school, I've been pursuing a career in jazz while making a living playing other styles of music," said Clark, who turns 60 in October, "I'm not begrudging those other styles, but I've always considered myself a jazz musician.

Clark took up drumming at age 4, when his jazz-obsessed father dragged his old drum kit down from the attic. Within weeks of pounding out his first Gene Krupa-style rhythm, Clark was sitting in with house bands in his hometown of Sacramento, Calif. After moving to Dallas, the 10-year-old prodigy began backing up legendary blues artists like Albert King, Freddie King and Albert Collins.

"Back then, there was no such thing as underage," said Clark. "There were no cops around in the clubs. Nobody thought of me as underage. Everybody just knew me as Mike the drummer. I could play the James Brown stuff, plus I could play like (jazz drummers) Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. In those days, there weren't many guys who could play in that style. Plus, I could play a real good shuffle and a real greasy funk."

As it happened, Clark's greasy funk would prove to be his ticket to ride.

In 1973, Herbie Hancock recruited Clark to join his pioneering funk band, The Headhunters, where Clark teamed up with bassist Paul Jackson to create one of the tightest, most enduring rhythm sections in modern music. Clark-Jackson beats have been sampled for albums by Prince, NWA, De La Soul and Janet Jackson.

Clark's current group, Mike Clark's Organ Trio, featuring up-and-comers Jed Levy on saxophone and Jerry-Z on organ, performs tonight at the Pour House.

"This is my hottest trio ever," said Clark. "And I'm not just saying that. I'm really proud to present this trio. This is more in line with my vision. This is what I want to present to people as my music.

"Jed Levy and Jerry-Z are hardball New York City musicians," continued Clark. "They can play anything."

For the group's Charleston debut, Clark promised to deliver compulsory Headhunter classics such as "Chameleon" and "Watermelon Man," but he is particularly excited to show off the more experimental tunes he has been writing with Levy and Z.

"Unless (the audience) really screams for it, I'm going to play as little of the Headhunters stuff as I can," said Clark. "I want to play my music now. I've shared the stage. This time it's all about me."

If you go

Who: Mike Clark's Organ Trio

When: Tonight at 9

Where: The Pour House (1977 Maybank Hwy.)

Cost: $8

Tickets: www.etix.com

Information: (843) 571-4343, www.mikeclarkmusic.com, www.charlestonpourhouse.com
- The Post and Courier - Charleston, SC


As a Leader:

2003: SUMMERTIME (JazzKey Records)
Featuring: Billy Childs, Chris Potter, Bob Sheppard, Jack Walrath, James Genus, Robert Hurst

2001: CONJUNCTION (Buckyball Records)
Featuring: Paul Jackson, David Fiuczynski, Jed Levy, Josh Roseman, Chris Speed, Marc Wagnon

2000: ACTUAL PROOF (Platform Records)
Featuring: Bennie Maupin, Charlie Hunter, Jed Levy, Tim Ouimette,
Ted Trimble, Kevin Burrell

1995: MASTER DRUMMERS, VOL.3 (Ubiquity Records)

1991: THE FUNK STOPS HERE (Enja Records)
Featuring: Paul Jackson, Kenny Garrett, Jeff Pittson

1989: GIVE THE DRUMMER SOME (Stash Records)
Featuring: Ricky Ford, Jack Walrath, Jack Wilkens, Neal Kirkwood,
Chip Jackson

With the Headhunters:

2003: EVOLUTION/REVOLUTION (Basin Street Records)
1977: STRAIGHT FROM THE GATE (Arista Records)
1975: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (Arista Records)

With Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters:

1976: MAN-CHILD (Columbia Records)
1975: FLOOD (Columbia Records)
1974: THRUST (Columbia Records)




MIKE CLARK gained worldwide recognition as one of America’s foremost jazz and funk drummers while playing with Herbie Hancock’s group in the early 1970’s. Mike became known as a major innovator through his incisive playing on Hancock’s Thrust album, which garnered him an international cult following.

Mike has performed with jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Larry Coryell, Jack Wilkins, Wallace Roney, Geri Allen, Billy Childs, James Genus, Bob Hurst, Chris Potter, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Dave Liebman, Nat Adderly, Oscar Brown Jr., Bill Doggett, Mose Allison, Maxine Brown, Gil Evans and his orchestra, and did a stint with Brand X, the acclaimed British fusion band, founded by Phil Collins. He has performed throughout the world at all the major jazz venues and festivals.

Featured in Downbeat, Musician, International Musician & Recording World, Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Guitar Player, Jazz Is and numerous jazz history and method books, Mike is a former faculty member of Drummers Collective, and is a popular and busy clinician around the country. His book Funk Drumming: Innovative Grooves & Advanced Concepts was published last year by Hal Leonard and is a best seller.

Called “the most sampled drummer in hip hop” Mike’s beats have been used on tracks by musicians as diverse as NWA, Grandmaster Flash, Britney Spears, Prince and many others.

His numerous recording credits include albums with Herbie Hancock, the Headhunters, Brand X, Eddie Henderson, Jack Wilkins, Mark Puricelli, Mike Wolff, and Alien Army, a group led by guitar great Jack Wilkins. As a bandleader, his release Give The Drummer Some was very enthusiastically received, earning a rare four and a half stars in Downbeat, as was The Funk Stops Here, a joint effort with Hancock alumni Paul Jackson. In 2001, his solo CD, Actual Proof met with critical acclaim, as did the 2003 acoustic jazz release, Summertime, featuring Chris Potter and Billy Childs, which spent many weeks in the top ten charts.

Other efforts included a compilation of his legendary, innovative funk beat samples, Mike Clark—The Headhunter, a re-release of the widely acclaimed Thrust album, and, in 1998, The Return Of The Headhunters, featuring Herbie Hancock. Next came Herbie Hancock’s Box Set, featuring Headhunters classics “Actual Proof” and “Butterfly,” from Thrust, a few choice cuts from Manchild, and also some historical tracks from the classic Flood, previously only available in Japan. The Headhunters’ newest effort, Evolution/Revolution, released in 2003, featured the latest Headhunter configuration, with original founding members Mike, Bill Summers and Paul Jackson, joined by Donald Harrison, Victor Atkins (Los Hombres Caliente), and Nicholas Payton.

Of his latest endeavor, a recording as a bandleader with Christian MacBride, Donald Harrison, Patrice Rushen, Jed Levy and Christian Scott, produced by Talking House Productions, Mike said it promises to be “some of the most exciting music I’ve ever been involved with.” He’s also featured on Mike Wollf’s latest recording Love And Destruction, and just got out of the studio with country blues legend Delbert McClinton

His band Prescription Renewal, which debuted in the winter of 2000, electrified audiences across the country with an eclectic core of cross generational multi talents such as Charlie Hunter, Fred Wesley, Skerik, Robert Walter, and DJ Logic, and always featured stellar special guests such as George Porter Jr. of Funky Meters’ fame, Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident, Les Claypool, Will Bernard, Larry Goldings and fellow Headhunters alumni, Bill Summers, and proved a hit on the thriving young jam band scene. Touring concurrently that year and the next was the Roots Funk All Stars, another hot ad hoc association that married Mike with James Brown trombonist Fred Wesley, former Headhunter cohort and funk bassist legend Paul Jackson, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Robben Ford. In 2004 he teamed up for a series of gigs with fellow drumming legend Lenny White in a two drummer powerhouse band called New Brew featuring music inspired by Miles Davis’ landmark recording Bitches Brew.

Mike is currently busy touring with his own Prescription Organ Trio / Duo, featuring Jerry Z, doing clinics and performing at clubs and concerts nationwide. He’s also a regular in pianist Mike Wolf’s band, Impure Thoughts and continues to do Headhunters’ projects around the world. Mike just returned from the annual PASIC convention in Austin, TX where he performed with fellow drummer Jim Payne to an enthusiastic full house. In 2007, he has tours booked throughout Europe, South America, South Africa and Russia.

Mike’s work continues to influence successive generations of drummers since his explosive arrival on the music scene with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.