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Clark Sommers Lens: Intertwine (Outside In)

A review of the bassist-led quintet's angular but appealing postbop outing

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Clark Sommers Lens: Intertwine (Outside In)
The cover of Intertwine by Clark Sommers Lens

Though bassist Clark Sommers leads the Chicago quintet behind this angular but appealing postbop outing—and it features an ace two-reed frontline of Geof Bradfield and Chris Madsen—none of these three gives Intertwine its essential color and character. That distinction goes to guitarist Matt Gold and drummer Dana Hall. The latter brings each tune its overall personality, the former its mood.

“Second Guess,” the third track, is an instructive example. One of a dozen Sommers originals, it is not a blues but immediately broadcasts blues-isms with its stop-time intro. It’s not just the rhythm itself, though: It’s Hall’s perfectly placed rolls and cymbal resonance that take it there. Gold’s savory comp under Madsen and Bradfield’s dueling tenor solos creates just the right seasoning. Then he throws the real spice into his own solo.

Other tracks present similar situations. Gold and Hall are the dark mystery on “Ancient Voice”; the languor on “Weeks & Weeks”; the playful soul on “Nichols on the Quarter.” They have their individual moments too: Gold’s windswept wonder on “Also Tomorrow” is sublime, and Hall flexes his funk muscles on the title track. “Intertwine” also features fine bass work by Sommers, more intriguing even than his three features (“Harbor,” “Skin and Bone,” and “Bass Intro”). Guess why?

The reedmen aren’t incidental here. Bradfield has a tremendous soprano feature on “Silent Observer,” and it’s a thrill to hear his deep, throaty tone alternate with Madsen’s peppery one on “Second Guess” or interlock with it on “Invisible Arrow.” (There’s also great joy in the merger of Bradfield’s bass clarinet with Madsen’s tenor on “Nichols on the Quarter.”) Still, there was some ineluctable magic on these two days in June 2021 when Gold met Hall. It’s they who make the album such a fun listen.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.