Mike Clark has basically spent the entire seven decades of his life keeping the beat, including over fifty years of drumming with the best musicians in the business. Thus it should be no surprise that this project features a quintet that measures up to damn near anybody.
Many aficionados share the opinion that live jazz is the art form's ultimate format. This assembly of awesome action makes that position hard to dispute, with a powerful performance package in which every track is exceptionally strong. The album ignites with "Of Infinity" and blasts into high orbit from there. Brief solo spots from the three-strong horn masters preview the many further treats to come from a rhythm section balanced by Clark and Christian McBride. Donald Harrison plays alto with Randy Brecker on trumpet and Rob Dixon on tenor.
While Dixon and pianist Antonio Farao demonstrate equal chops to their four somewhat more famous colleagues, their most impressive contributions are five rousing compositions of the eight on this recording. The collection includes a pair of epics by Thelonious Monk as "Straight No Chaser" and "Well You Needn't" get the royal treatment they deserve, while the Farao and Dixon cuts sound nearly equal to those hallowed standards. "Sweet" is that indeed, and a master class in brushwork. "Lucky No.7" is a mood-elevating rim shot that includes a nice series of horn solos and seven short, snappy stickups by Clark. "If We Must Die" is as tight as most music gets.
The record comes from a series of concerts that took place near the end of October 2018. Clark's PR information lists those shows as a re-imagining of his well- received Blueprints of Jazz Vol 1 (2010, Talking House Records). McBride and Harrison took part in the initial sets around 2010, and the spirit seems just as fresh now. Production is by Lenny White, who knows a thing or two hundred about drums himself.
These precise practitioners swing for the farthest fences whenever they are up, and connect with home runs every time. Considering the all-star ensemble, such excellence is guaranteed and delivered. This is a highly worthwhile treasure-chest of classic jazz in a modern format.
Of Infinity; Black Inside; Past Lives; Sweet; Straight No Chaser;
If We Must Die; Lucky No. 7; Well You Needn’t.
Mike Clark: drums; Christian McBride: bass; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Donald Harrison Jr: alto saxophone; Rob Dixon: tenor saxophone; Antonio Farao: piano.
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