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Seleno Clarke: Bringing The Music Back To Harlem

AAJ Staff By

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Clarke says, "My dream was ultimately to ... bring the musicians back to Harlem and give back to the community—and that's basically what I'm about, you know. I'm having people from all over the world— there's a tremendous amount of diversity here. That was my dream—people from Europe, Japan, South America, everybody. So that's what my dream has been about."

The Hammond draws strong compliments from its players. Clarke calls it "a nostalgic instrument," and Dr. Lonnie Smith once simply stated, "It's a beautiful instrument." "Yes," says Clarke about Smith's assessment. "I call it 'The Beast.'" That beast was soon on the prowl.

It takes a lot of work from the backing musicians to keep up with a Hammond. Clarke puts it in perspective: "I have a lot of energy when I play, and I have to have the right energy behind me to project or execute or to deliver, (that's the) bottom line. ... I put that Hammond in here like 10 years ago—it's my baby."

Well known artists can drop in at the session too, such as Dr. Lonnie Smith and alto sax legend Lou Donaldson. "Oh yeah," Clarke says. "Lou comes in here. In fact, he was here last week. I'll tell you the guys that come through here: Jimmy McGriff, the late Jimmy McGriff, Joey DeFrancesco, Dr. Lonnie Smith—he was here about two weeks ago and played. I get a host of others. So many come through here in the last 10 years. They all know me; we're all like family ... because it's like my living room. This is not a night club; it's my living room, and they're all welcome to come in and we have a great time here."

If you have a Hammond on hand and brilliant Hammond musicians on the bandstand, a great time is inevitable. Did the music comeback to Harlem? Mission accomplished!

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