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Mike Clark: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1

Clark is a legend among drummers for his groundbreaking work on Herbie Hancock’s 1974 landmark, Thrust (particularly on the track “Actual Proof,” which elevated the standard of funk drumming to a new level by incorporating slick syncopation, hip time displacement and an overall looser, jazzier approach).

On this swinging affair, the first in the Blueprints of Jazz series of straightahead releases on the San Francisco-based Talking House label, Clark has assembled a crew of heavy hitters in bassist Christian McBride, keyboardist Patrice Rushen, trumpeter Christian Scott, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison and tenor saxophonist Jed Levy. His intention here is to defy the stereotype that he is strictly a funk and fusion drummer (following his stint with Hancock’s Headhunters he joined the British fusion band Brand X, replacing Kenwood Dennard in the drum chair). From Levy’s opening uptempo burner “In the House” (which features an incredible drum solo) to the slow, noir-ish “10th Ave. 1957” to the aggressively swinging “Morning Became Electra,” there is indeed a strong element of uncut jazz here, with all the players providing thoughtful accompaniment and contributing stellar solos to the proceedings.

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