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Mike Clark: Carnival of Soul

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The drumming great’s debut for Owl Studios is a paean to the B3 organ trio, a format he played in for half a dozen years during his early 20s. But rather than being just a greasy throwdown-which he does with requisite grit on “T’s Boogaloo,” alongside organist Delbert Bump and guitarist Steve Homan-this is a versatile outing that showcases the organ in all of its manifestations.

A rendition of “Monk’s Dream” (with organist Jerry Z and tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon) finds the drummer traversing the kit in loosely syncopated fashion, providing the array of unexpected accents required of Monk’s music. “Water on the Moon” (with Dixon on tenor and Z on organ) is a modernist take on the B3 trio reminiscent of Larry Young’s work with Joe Henderson and Elvin Jones. Clark creates an easygoing vibe with brushes on an alluring rendition of “Angel Eyes” that underscores Bump’s velvety organ tones and Homan’s Grant Green-like guitar work, then turns around with the same trio and burns a blue streak on Bump’s boppish workout “Bookin.” (Clark’s astonishing solo on the track should straight-up frighten drum students.)

Clark deals in N’Awlins-flavored funk on Jeff Pittson’s “Zoyd,” featuring Rez Abbasi on guitar, Rob Dixon on tenor sax and Pittson on B3. That same crew conjures up another modernist Larry Young-meets-Elvin swing feel on the surging “Run Straight Down.” And Clark joins his longtime friend and drumming colleague Lenny White for the funky two-drum showcase “Catlett Outta the Bag,” a ’70s Herbie Hancock-styled jam featuring Pittson on clavinet, Dixon wailing on robust tenor and Tim Ouimette on muted trumpet. A special treat on this very satisfying outing is an emotionally charged reading of the torch song “Cry Me a River,” with Clark on brushes and pain-etched vocals by Delbert McClinton.

Originally Published