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Mike Clark: Summertime

Mike Clark’s work with the Headhunters has emphasized his facility with funk beats, throbbing grooves and dance arrangements, but his latest release as a leader, Summertime, showcases another side of the drummer’s musical personality. Whether covering show tunes, jazz standards or originals, Clark displays percussive subtlety and rhythmic versatility while heading an excellent group of equally accomplished musicians.

The core group features pianist Billy Childs, tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Jack Walrath, tenor/soprano saxophonist Chris Potter and bassists James Genus or Robert Hurst. Potter’s been unfairly typed as an overly cerebral, introspective soloist, but sheds that label with animated, spirited solos on “Summertime,” and “Dolores.” Even his less energetic, more lyrical lines on “Angelica” are still passionately delivered, while his exchanges with Walrath on “Three Pawns” destroy the notion his sound lacks blues links or grit. Sheppard provides a crisp, crackling edge to “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” enriching the tune’s playful sensibility with a soulful solo, and he’s even more forceful on “U.T.”

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