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Mike Clark: Actual Proof

In the 1970s, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters blazed a trail of groundbreaking jazz-fusion. On the Headhunters’ Thrust, drummer Mike Clark tore it up during a solo on “Actual Proof,” fast becoming a favorite of drummers. Clark’s latest retains the title of that classic and, even though the song isn’t included here, he again makes a strong statement on an 11-song set of rippling funk, fusion and straightahead that offers tempting solos and Clark’s steady pounding, which is mixed out front for optimal effect.

He’s joined by a top-flight jam band, including Jed Levy and Bernie Maupin on sax, Tim Ouimette on horns, Charlie Hunter on guitar, Ted Trimble on bass and Kevin Burrell on percussion.

Levy writes and co-writes several tunes, including “The Grinder,” a funkin’, bass-heavy Memphis-flavored jam. “Aristide” is bottom heavy, with Clark spinning his sticks on a solo to make arena-rock bands of the ’70s proud. Clark shows his jazz acumen with drum brushes on Ouimette’s “Waiting Around,” a plaintive six-minute journey with Ouimette’s flugelhorn riding on top, and with “Attack of the 40 ft Woman,” where Ouimette’s Dizzy-like chops trade riffs with Levy’s tenor. But Clark swings back to his forte with Miles Davis’ “Stuff,” a head-nodding, swinging and funky jaunt (natch).

Drum-centered CDs never did much for me, but recent works by Gene Lake and, now, Clark have me salivating at the sight of drumsticks.

Originally Published