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A Fireside Chat With Mike Clark

By Published: March 7, 2003

MC: Well, no, I didn't feel any pressure behind the fact that Harvey played first. I just had to learn some of the beats he played and had the learn the music, but I was confident. I don't sound like him and so I never went in that direction. I am a fan of Harvey. I love Harvey's playing. I am not a jealous or competitive drummer. I left that way back there, so when I hear good drummers, it excites me and makes me want to play. Lenny White is a dear, dear friend of mine and in my estimation, he is the hardest swinging drummer in jazz. He has got the greasiest, dirtiest ride beat that I have heard in many years. We're buddies. I love it. I love good drummers.

FJ: You certainly took the group into a new direction. Proof is in Thrust , a killing album.

MC: I was a really, really jazz drummer, so I took it more in that area. I have been working with this guy DJ Spooky and I have been out with him and I was in a club the other night and I was hearing my stuff from that time period mixed into a rap artist's track and I smiled.

FJ: Let's talk about your new release, Summertime .

MC: I had written some things that I was dying to record for a couple of years and here was a chance to do it. I am also a Buddhist a la Mr. Hancock. I started going out to the West Coast. Billy Childs had made a Headhunters record with us one time and I had always been interested in him. You were mentioning him, Fred, a while before. He is really one of the greatest jazz pianists in the world. I love Child's playing. It is always interesting and challenging. He is not asleep. This guy is seriously awake and he is ready to get down. At all times, he is dangerous and he can swing too. He had been a fan and especially of a track called "Actual Proof" ( Thrust ). We had conversations of how the recording went down of "Actual Proof" and as a teenager, he listened to that a lot. That was one of his main tracks. We had kind of a natural connection and understanding and became really good friends. I love his playing. While I was on the West Coast, I did some gigs with him and thought that I would definitely use him because I trust him on the stage and I trust him during the performance musically. I know he is going to swing and I know he is going to play some stuff that is going to challenge me and I know it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Bob Sheppard, I had played with from knowing Billy Childs. He had recommended Sheppard for a couple of gigs. I dug him straight out. This cat can straight up play. He is funky. He can swing and he understands everything that is coming at him right away. He can translate things immediately. I dig Sheppard. Him and Potter were my first choices. I knew I was recording some of this in LA because Childs lived there and I had to go back out on business and while I was there, I knew I was going to call Bob. Chris Potter, I had been interested in. I had been hearing him around the Apple for a while. I was really impressed with the fact that he could play the whole history or extremely interplanetary, all in one tune. I definitely wanted to feel that because I am old and I definitely wanted to feel the roots thing and I also want to go somewhere. Bob Hurst, I have been playing with along with Childs and he has got a greasy groove and he is great. He is a great bassist. I love playing with Bob. I was in Oakland during this time period and I went to go hear Marc Copland and Bob Berg, bless his heart, in fact, Fred, Bob's memorial is today and I am going to go. I was shocked about that. Anyway, Bob and Randy Brecker and Dennis Chambers and James Genus had a gig and Dennis was telling me to play and so I did and James was playing bass and it felt really good. So when Frank (Perowsky) approached me about this record, I had most of these guys in mind. Frank was really hot about Chris Potter as well. Frank was the first one to mention Chris. That is how it all came together and we recorded some of it in New York and the rest of it in LA.

FJ: And the future?

MC: I've got some jazz gigs coming up for this record. We are just putting it together now in February, March, and April. The Headhunters have a new CD coming out that I really dig. It's a good one that is coming out April 28. We're going to tour the United States, Europe, and Japan into next year. I am also going out with this DJ again. This guy DJ Spooky, we're going to do some West Coast stuff. I also my own funk band that has been on the road for the last three years. Charlie Hunter plays in that group sometimes. I have a lot of different stuff going on. Right now, I want to concentrate on Summertime and get some work while it is hot. We will be coming out there. I subbed for Lenny (White) with Wallace Roney and it was fantastic. It was with Geri Allen and James Spaudling on alto sax. Wallace played so great. It is still fresh in my mind.

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