Mike Clark: Blueprints of Jazz, Volume 1 (2008)
For their Blueprints of Jazz series, Talking House Records decided to give free studio reign to individuals who have significantly influenced modern jazz but, for whatever reason, have not been given their due. Drummer Mike Clark has influenced several generations since his time with keyboardist Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and inaugurated the series. While additional releases showcase tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and drummer Donald Bailey, Clark was the first to be given the heady opportunity to handpick a band to construct what is unfortunately, despite the high quality of the resulting session, most probably a one-off studio encounter.
Clark chooses his session mates well and surprises with not a jazz funkfest but with an organic original acoustic program of hard bop and blues with, yes, a sprinkling of funk, that grows stronger with each song and repeated listen. Christian McBride is superb and powerful on acoustic upright bass while saxophonists Donald Harrison (tenor) and Jed Levy (alto) harmonize and disengage to allow each the room to showcase their singular approaches. Young trumpeter Christian Scott juices up these cuts with an exciting flair and pianist Patrice Rushen coats the tunes with a delightful soulfulness.
There is a lot going on here both harmonically and rhythmically and Clark shows that he can take command of this session of leaders. His cymbal work, textures and rhythmic forays, along with Levy's compositions, are a prime factor in steering the group into new territory as opposed to a meeting that could have easily become formulaic. Of particular note are Harrison and Levy, the former again proving why he has garnered so much attention for his unique texture and tone while the latter's smoother soulful approach is a study in grace.
Track Listing: In the House; Like That; 10th Ave. 1957; Past Lives; Thanks Len; Loft Funk; Clark Kent; Conchita's Dance; Morning Became Electra; I Want to Talk About You.
Personnel: Mike Clark: drums; Christian McBride: bass; Patrice Rushen: piano; Christian Scott: trumpet; Donald Harrison: alto sax; Jed Levy: tenor sax.