Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Wednesday, July 6th at 12pm mountain (2pm eastern/11am pacific), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring Mike Clark!
Mike Clark gained worldwide recognition as one of America’s foremost jazz and funk drummers while playing with Herbie Hancock in the early seventies. His incisive playing on Hancock’s “Actual Proof” garnered him an international cult following and influenced generations of drummers. While Mike digs the funk, he considers jazz his first love, and playing that music is what he says feeds his soul.
Born in Sacramento, CA, Mike traveled around the country with his father, a union man for the railroad, and a former drummer himself. His dad had a great appreciation for jazz and blues music, and Mike credits this exposure as forming the foundation for his ability to synthesize many different regional styles. He absorbed the music of America while riding the rails. From age 4, he was a prodigy, sitting in—and getting “house” —- with bands in Texas and New Orleans. By the time he reached his early twenties, he had become one of the founders of the distinctive East Bay Sound coming out of Oakland, California.
During the late sixties, Mike led his own jazz organ trio,. Then he met Hancock in 1973. With Herbie, Mike set the rhythms for the acclaimed group, The Headhunters. Afterwards, he did a two-year stint with Brand X, the British jazz/rock fusion band founded by Phil Collins. With them he recorded ”Do They Hurt?” and “Product.”
By 2000, Mike had made a foray into the popular jam band scene. His group Prescription Renewal pulled together cross-generational talents, such as Charlie Hunter, Fred Wesley, Skerik, Robert Walter, and DJ Logic, and featured special guests such as Donald Harrison, George Porter Jr. of The Meters, Les Claypool, Larry Goldings and fellow Headhunters alumni Bill Summers. He also toured with The Roots Funk All Stars.
Along with James Brown's drummer Clyde Stubblefield, Mike's beats with The Headhunters (most notably “God Make Me Funky”) include some of the most sampled in hip hop. He has been featured in Downbeat, Musician, International Musician & Recording World, Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Guitar Player, Jazz Is, and numerous jazz history and method books.
Mike is a popular and busy clinician. His latest book, “The Post Bop Drum Book” on Hudson Music is a big hit. A previous book, “Funk Drumming: Innovative Grooves & Advanced Concepts” was published in 2012 by Hal Leonard.
As a bandleader, his release “Give The Drummer Some” earned a rare four and a half stars in Downbeat. “The Funk Stops Here,” a joint effort with Hancock alumni Paul Jackson got five stars, as did 2011’s “Carnival of Soul.” In 2001, his solo CD “Actual Proof” met with critical acclaim, as did the 2003 acoustic jazz release, “Summertime,” featuring Chris Potter and Billy Childs, which spent weeks in the top ten jazz charts. 2009’s “Blueprints of Jazz” featuring Patrice Rushen, Randy Brecker, Donald Harrison, Rob Dixon, and Christian McBride was considered one of the top jazz releases of the new millenium by Downbeat magazine.
In 2012 Mike co-led The Headhunters,’ with original founding member Bill Summers. 2012 saw a new Headhunters' release, “Platinum.” which featured guest turns by Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, and Killah Priest.
Another musically exciting year was 2015. His second Wolff & Clark Expedition CD released in February, and his hard bop band “Indigo Blue Live at the Iridium” arrived six months later, both on Random Act Records. Both CDs featured Christian McBride on bass, Donald Harrison on alto, Rob Dixon on tenor, Antonio Farao on Piano and Randy Brecker on trumpet.
Mike has produced three releases for the spoken word prophet Tony Adamo, indulging ”Miles of Blu” with Tower of Power's Doc Krupka, bass legend Paul Jackson, and Michael Wolff. Along with drum legend Lenny White (Return to Forever), Mike is co-leading Nu Brew, a double drummer experience in new music. He also appears on Tower of Power's organist Chester Thompson's “Mixology.”
During Covid, Mike did many online drum clinics and co-led a record date with Michael Wolff and Leon Dorsey: “Wolff, Clark and Dorsey Play Sgt. Pepper.” On this date they played swinging arrangements of Beatles tunes, acoustic jazz style. He also was a sideman on Leon Dorsey's “Thank you Mr, Maybern” with the late great Harold Maybern and Leon in a hard swinging trio setting, “DSC MonkTime” celebrated the music of Thelonious Monk, once again with Leon Dorsey, with Dorsey and Greg Skaff as co-leaders. He also is a founding member of The StickPeople, an online interview show, along with Lenny White, David Garabaldi, Michael Shrieve and Greg Errico. The four drummers do online interviews with great artists playing jazz, funk, fusion and all things music!
As of 2021, Mike still lives in New York City. His latest CD, “Mike Drop” with sax great Michael Zilber is in the top ten on Jazz Weekly. Mike is with Leon Lee Dorsey and Manny Valera on Leon's new record “Freedom Jazz Dance” which debuted on Jazz Weekly at number 16. He was in Chicago recently with Donald Harrison and the great Fred Wesley; then Donald and Mike left for Indiana to co-lead an organ trio at the famous Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis. He also just finished a “beats” recording for Yurt Rock which will be out in the fall 2021, along with his newest, “Mike Clark plays Herbie Hancock—Again!” an acoustic jazz recording out next year.
Mike endorses DW Drums, Istanbul Cymbals, Evans Drum heads, and Innovation Percussion drumsticks.