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Zack Clarke: Random Acts of Order

John Sharpe By

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Pianist Zack Clarke's Random Acts Of Order presents a threesome making waves on the NYC scene. Each of the trio studied with guitarist/composer Joe Morris, who appropriately contributes the liners to this release. Slovenian drummer Dre Hocevar may have the most visibility due to his series of discs on the Clean Feed imprint, the third of which Transcendental Within the Sphere of Indivisible Remainder (2017) also features Clarke and the bassist from this date, Henry Fraser. All eight cuts are credited to Clarke, although they often suggest collective creation as much as charts.

While initial impressions might imply that Clarke operates in a similarly abstract sphere, the bulk of this album evokes a more straightforward piano tradition. At least until you listen closely. Then it becomes apparent that while the standard syntax is acknowledged in the constantly recalibrated relationships between the three instruments, they purposefully avoid overt melody or sustained rhythm. It seems the title isn't just a poetic metaphor. It neatly sums up, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, how the cohesive fragments emerge from a flowing seemingly amorphous interaction.

Clarke divides himself between electronics and piano where he proves fond of angular runs from which his reiterated phrases stand in sharp relief. Hocevar excels as a sound painter, carefully placing his cymbal splashes to maximum effect, while using his drum rattle to supply an intermittent pulse. Fraser frequently acts as a wild card, combining a flinty fingering with garrulous abrasion once he has bow in hand. At first "Before The Cause" almost acts as a showcase for Fraser, as his creaky sawing hovers over a bubbling electronic mire, before the track transmutes into sensitively poised drifting piano balladry.

The electronics recur in "Elements" and "Celebrate Unity," two short cuts which serve as cooling interludes between meatier fare. "Act 1" and "Act 2" are among the standouts, where Clarke atomizes the piano trio into agitated pizzicato growl, chattering drums and piano shards, culminating in rampaging lines with a choppy undertow in the former, and taking on an almost fractured swing in the latter. In a demonstration of emotional reach, the set concludes with "Dee," an unaccompanied piano meditation full of inner tension and oblique lyricism.

On this showing it's clear that this is a triumvirate of names to watch out for in the future.

Track Listing: Before the cause; Act 1; Elements; Low Gardens; Up on the High; Celebrate Unity; Act 2; Dee.

Personnel: Zack Clarke: Piano, Electronics; Henry Fraser: Bass; Dre Hocevar: Drums.

Title: Random Acts of Order | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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