Drummer Terry Clarke has had a long and illustrious career. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Clarke moved to San Francisco in 1965 to play with John Handy
III. Jazz at the time was not an all-encompassing passion, and when the opportunity to play with pop vocal group The Fifth Dimension came about, he took it. Five years later in 1970, he moved to Toronto. From then on he has been a ubiquitous presence on over 400 recordings, playing with the likes of Oscar Peterson
, the Toshiko Akiyoshi
Jazz Orchestra and Toots Toots Thielemans
. With It's About Time
, Clarke makes his recording debut as leader.
Three tunes are with a trio, while the other four feature a quartet. That balance may have something to do with Clarke's playful imagination, but more certain is the underlying character that the musicians bring. Clarke should know: he has played with all of them before.
The music, recorded at the Toronto Science Centre and Montreal Jazz Festival, starts off with the rhythmically intense "Feel Free." Harmonically driven by guitarist Jim Hall
and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano
, it flirts with free structure as Lovano forges on, his broad phrases jumping out fast and edgy. Hall is the cog, reining in with chord clusters and single note runs. Clarke's percussive drive and bassist Greg Osby
, who imbues a beautiful warmth as fleeting lines flirt with the melody and then arch into a deep caress. Clarke's brushes are at the center, as is the bass' pliant call. It is not only a succinct take on the Duke Ellington
standard, it is also poetry in motion.
Tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer stirs up a storm on his exuberant composition, "Flanders Road." His tone is resolute in its search for adventure as he punctures the air with brawny lines that change trajectory but neither flag nor falter. Thompson shows his consummate power as he isolates the melody and then plays around with it. On his own he's a dynamo, but as part of the trio, he invests the whole with a sense of belonging.
Personnel: Terry Clarke: drums; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone (1, 2); Phil Dwyer:
tenor saxophone (3, 4, 5); Jim Hall: guitar (1, 2, 6, 7); Greg Osby:
alto saxophone (6, 7); Don Thompson: bass, piano.