Only three days after terrorists attacked American soil, drummer, Mike Clark and his “Prescription Renewal” outfit decided to proceed with their scheduled performance at New Orleans’ “House of Blues.” Naturally, the tragic chain of events managed to cast a spell on this altogether festive tourist town, yet the musicians garnered a surprisingly strong turnout, given the circumstances. The proceedings opened with the San Diego-based, “B-Side Players:” A band that pursues Afro-Cuban jazz-rock rhythms, although two of its members were unable to attend due to the nationwide airline situation. Essentially, the soloists’ expounded upon the rhythm sections’ piping hot developments as the group’s turbulent flow instilled an upbeat vibe. However, by the time Clark’s band entered the stage, a better than expected crowd had populated the first level of the two-tiered venue. Clark and his longtime musical associate bassist, Paul Jackson - known for their groundbreaking funk/fusion style rhythmic inventions with Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters,” literally wore out the crowd. A be-bopper at heart, Clark is reportedly one of the most sampled hip-hop drummers on the globe, not to mention his numerous jazz-based sessions and string of well-received solo outings. Moreover, Jackson literally terrorized his electric bass as the rhythm section also featuring ex-“Headhunters” percussionist, Bill Summers now a member of New Orleans’ “Los Hombres Calientes” revitalized and extended previously developed methodologies. Famed trombonist, Fred Wesley was unable to attend due to the airline quandary, yet keyboardist, Kyle Hollingsworth (“The String Cheese Incident”), and an exciting young saxophonist simply introduced as, Alexander rounded out the band. Pieces such as “People Cry,” featuring Jackson’s emotive soul/blues vocals, monstrous grooves and the artists’ propulsive exchanges prompted the audience to shimmy, dance and wobble in abstract positions. Immediately afterwards, the ensemble performed the now classic, “Watermelon Man.” Here, Hollingsworth, delved into the familiar groove in concert with Summers’ percussive accents and rippling conga work as the audience subsequently launched into a feverish applause. Jackson’s complex bass lines and spirited vocals on “Tip Toe Thru the Ghetto” preceded an ominous sounding space-funk motif, accelerated by tenor saxophonist, Alexander’s plugged in EFX, hard edged concoctions and ethereal musings. Summers band mate from “Los Hombres Calientes,” trumpeter Irvin Mayfield joined the band for the works titled, “Bacon Fat” and “Blues Shuffle”. Thus, it is easy to see why this New Orleans native is a star on the rise, via his stinging 16th notes, raspy trills and beautifully constructed solos, whereas local pianist, Ronald Markham sat in for Hollingsworth during this segment. Meanwhile, the house was in a state of jubilant hysteria.
Overall, the musicians traded sprightly fours, engaged in emphatic unison choruses and displayed a flair for the dynamic. The group’s in-the-pocket mode of execution amid Jackson and Clark’s often awe-inspiring soloing provided the proverbial icing on the cake, as the musicians’ communicated hope, happiness and a noticeable sense of unity to all.
The first jazz record I received
as a visiting gift from my
Japanese uncle at his
international division of
Toshiba EMI Tokyo was a
sample copy of Miles Davis'
Bitches Brew. A game
changer redirecting my
browsing habits and collection.