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Clarence Penn

Clarence Penn is one of the busiest jazz drummers in the world, a leader of multiple bands, a composer, a prolific producer, and an educator.

Since 1991, when he arrived in New York City, Penn has placed his unique blend of mega-chops, keen intellect, and heady musicianship at the service of a staggering array of A-list artists—a chronological short-list includes Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay. Penn’s impressive discography includes several hundred studio albums (including the Grammy-winning recordings 34th and Lex by Randy Brecker and Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue by Maria Schneider) representing a 360-spectrum of jazz expression, and he’s toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. He’s composed music for films and commercials, and produced tracks for numerous singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a “Ten Best of 1997” accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, Penn’s Landing.

A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a protégé of Ellis Marsalis, Penn is active as an educator and drum clinician. From 2004 to 2012, he taught on the faculty of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He’s also served on faculty at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Saint Louis College of Music in Rome, Italy, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Intensive Jazz Institute.

Penn currently leads several ensembles. His most recent “rhythmically intoxicating” recording is 2014’s “Monk The Lost Files”arrangements of the music of Thelonious Monk. Released on the Origin record lable, an amazing quartet comprising saxophonist Chad Leftkowitz-Brown, Pianist Gerald Clayton/Donald Vega, and bassist Yasushi Nakamura performing the music of Thelonius Monk with today’s modern jazz sensibility. Near completion is a “world music” studio project of songs and instrumentals that melds background voices—including his own—with a world class band.

Whether Penn is leading his own band or performing as a sideman, he brings to the table unfailing versatility and professionalism, an ability to find creative ways to interpret a global array of styles and idioms, and a stated intention “to play music that’s warm and organic for the people and for myself.”

His motto: “When people hear my name, I want them to think, ‘I don’t know what band he’s playing with tonight or what he’ll be doing, but it’s going to be good, it’s going to be musical.’”

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"Mr. Penn using brushes might hesitate a minute, like a plane hitting an air pocket, suspending time for a second, then rush back in. It was musical wit, improvisational play at its best." Peter Watrous - New York Times

"He has a way of pushing and filling-in and giving you the right kick to push you to the next level of playing." John Swana, trumpeter

"He's classically trained, and knows a lot of music...he has the total package." Tim Warfield, saxophonist

"A soft drummer, full of thoughtful choices...A revelation." Harriet McLeod - News Leader staff writer

"His use of space was masterful, mind blowing." Ryan Vertner - Indiana Daily News

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Concert Schedule

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Ah-Bop

SIMP Records
2022

buy

What to Wear in the...

Resilience Music Alliance
2021

buy

The Women Who Raised...

Blue Note Records
2020

buy

Be Water

Mack Avenue Records
2020

buy

The reMission

Sunnyside Records
2020

buy

Let's Get Tropical

Outside in Music
2020

buy

Ah-Bop

From: Ah-Bop
By Clarence Penn

Stablemates

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

Straight Talk

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

MR 2

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

Mental Self Defense Fitness

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

Let's Get Tropical

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

Glacier Lake

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

MR 4

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

Trio 3

From: Let's Get Tropical
By Clarence Penn

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