Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Terry Clarke Trio

Well, the Calgary Jazz Festival should have started yesterday but of course was cancelled at the 11th hour due to financial problems. Here's a recent Calgary Herald article with the latest news:


Fortunately there are still a handful of shows proceeding this week at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club and, I should add, all the shows feature outstanding touring Canadian Jazz groups. Still lots of good music to take in this week ! Props to Beatniq owner Rob Young for sticking to his guns and agreeing to proceed despite the festival's demise.

I guess I'll refer to this as the "Beatniq All-Canadian Jazz Festival" from now on?

Tuesday evening's show at the Beatniq featured drummer Terry Clarke and his trio with Phil Dwyer on saxophone and Don Thompson on bass. Terry, who once referred to himself as "the eternal sideman", was in fine form in the role as bandleader and was promoting the music from his debut and Juno award-winning album "It's About Time".

Here's a clip of Clarke speaking about how his "debut" album came about:

I attended both the early and late shows yesterday evening and was glad I did ! Last night's performance was the first of a two week national tour for the band. Terry referred to the Calgary show as their "rehearsal"....but these musicians have such a history playing together that it was really like three really good friends playing together on stage. When you put great musicians who have played together ALOT great things are bound to happen.

I've seen Clarke play with a number of different groups over the years but this configuration was special for me as it was very exciting to hear him finally lead his own group and see him call the shots. Clarke played with an uncompromising sense of rhythmic leadership and energetic swing that only a drummer as band leader can provide !!! Also, Clarke is a master orchestrator of the drum set and he really uses his options of drums and cymbals to the fullest, providing contrasting rhythmic "canvases" to accompany his fellow musicians.

The repertoire they played included an eclectic mix of tunes including McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance" (starting the evening with a drum solo with mallets....perfect!), two spirited and very different versions of "St. Thomas" (the latter of the two featured Phil roaming the back of the club while playing...yeah!), a tribute to drummer Jerry Fuller in the form of Sonny Rollins' "Airegin", a couple of Don Thompson originals (including "Peregrine Blues"), Herbie Hancock's classic "Driftin'", a beautiful ballad rendition of "I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face" and "Village Green" (a spirited uptempo blues originally featured on an Elvin Jones trio album that featured Joe Farrell). My favorite piece of the evening was a spirited rendition of Sonny Rollin's "Freedom Suite" - played in it's entirety !

A very cool aspect of this "trio" is that it was actually three trios (or a "discount big band" as Clarke referred to it on the microphone!). Most of the set consisted of Phil on tenor and Don on bass but Dwyer and Thompson would occasionally switch to piano at various times to change things up. A very nice contrast and brought a nice dynamic to the overall evening, I thought.

I would strongly urge anyone who has the opportunity to see this group during their tour to check them out. These three musicians have a such a great chemistry playing together, let's hope that they record again once their tour is finished !

I was fortunate to study Jazz drumming with Clarke during my first year of my Doctoral studies at the University of Toronto two years ago. It was an incredible experience and a great opportunity to learn from someone with such a diverse performing career as his. We spent a lot of time studying the style of Tony Williams and Clarke's first-hand knowledge of post-bop 1960s Jazz drumming was an invaluable lesson in itself.

And last, but not least, here's a few youtube clips of Terry Clarke in action.

First, here's Clarke with pianist Bernie Senensky at Toronto's Trane Studio:

And here with pianist Bill Mays and bassist Neil Swainson from a CBC broadcast:

And finally here is "Professor" Clarke in action from a masterclass at York University playing the piece "Nardis" with a group of university students:

More great shows at the Beatniq all this week.

Please get out and support live Jazz in Calgary !

1 comment:

  1. Hi John,

    thanks for the info on the Calgary Festival. What a drag. I hope you didn't lose work over it.