By Ed Enright | Published July 2019
Drummer Mike Clark, whose work with Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters in the 1970s expertly straddled the jazz-funk divide and generated enough aural excitement to influence multiple generations of players, indulges his straightahead side on this live all-star session recorded last year at New York’s Iridium.
Trumpeter Randy Brecker, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon, bassist Christian McBride and pianist Antonio Faraò join Clark on a swinging program that includes original compositions by bandmembers and a couple of Thelonious Monk standards. Despite his reputation as the man who literally wrote the book on funk drumming (he authored the 2012 Hal Leonard publication Funk Drumming: Innovative Grooves & Advanced Concepts), Clark finds himself in very familiar territory here, having honed his straightahead chops over decades playing gigs with the likes of Chet Baker, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Nat Adderley, Gil Evans and scores of other heavyweights from the worlds of bebop and blues. His spang-a-lang ride work reveals itself to be second nature as the veteran drummer drives the ensemble with his tasteful snare-and-cymbals swing grooves and insistent shuffles. But Clark’s most creative statements come during the quieter moments of this recording. Hear his brushes sizzle, subdivide, scrape and swish on the Faraò ballad “Sweet.” And dig the understated-yet-creative way Clark provides support during the bass solos: he ticks, taps, skitters and clicks out the time with intensity, but at a volume low enough to reveal the depths of McBride’s resonant, pure-acoustic tone.