Clark established a reputation with his improvising in Herbie Hancock’s hard-funk bands of the mid-seventies. Here, on his first album as leader, he has drawn upon an historically wide range of frameworks within which to display his feeling for group dynamics.
His considerable technical abilities are showcased on the title track: a relatively brief solo feature, it sounds to me like a series of very exacting practice exercises, brilliantly rolled together, but to little emotional effect.
Elsewhere, more soul is on display. The sextet tracks have quite a feeling of Mingus about them – not surprisingly, given the presence of Ford and Walrath, who are both in good if not exceptional form here.
Dr. J. takes us on a funky back beat to the dance floor, while Jackson moves from loosely funky figures through swing to a delicious, old time two beat feeling, featuring excellent work from Wilkins, Kirkwood and Jackson. If this is my favourite track, the opener Joy Spring gets my vote for the second least essential piece of music here, after Clark’s solo feature: remembering the beauty that Clifford Brown created out of this theme, Walrath’s sourish sounding, somewhat messy arrangement simply grates on the nerves.
A mixed bag, then, three quarters of which is well worth hearing.
Joy Spring (a); Is There A Jackson In The House? (b); Feel No Evil (a); Baghdad By The Bay (c); Give The Drummer Some (d); Waltz For Me (c); Mutants Of Metaluma (c); Dr. J. (a); If You Could See Me Now (e); Night In Tunisia (f) (67.37)
(a) Ricky Ford (ts); Jack Walrath (t); Jack Wilkins (el g); Chip Jackson (b); Mike Clark (d).
(b) Wilkins (el g); Neal Kirkwood (p); Jackson (b); Clark (d).
(c) as (a) plus Kirkwood (p).
(d) Clark (solo).
(e) Walrath (t); Kirkwood (p); Jackson (b); Clark (d).
(f) as (e) plus Wilkins (el g).
All New York, 1989.