Drummer Mike Clark cemented his reputation as a musician to be reckoned with when part of Herbie Hancock’s band in the early 70s and his subsequent track record shows a long list of associations with the music’s elite. Similarly, the Canadian born saxophonist Michael Zilber has found himself in exalted company ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Dave Douglas.
The pairing goes back over a decade in both the studio and live gigs, revealing an empathy present on Mike Drop where they are joined by two of the West Coast’s finest musicians. In terms of track order, the session takes a while to ignite, rather like a slow burning “in person” session but as the music progresses things start to take off.
The two opening pieces are Zilber originals, Barshay Fly revolving around an annoying repetitive reference to “Westminster Chimes” and Sonny Monk, having exchanges between tenor and piano at its heart. Appropriately, there is some excellent funky drumming on McCoy Tyner’s Passion Dance, whilst the sympathetic treatment of Duke Pearson’s ballad You Know I Care is a fine contrast.
Then we are into two Lennon & McCartney compositions, finding Zilber on soprano sax for Blackbird, not exactly the most promising of tunes for improvising musicians to build upon, followed by Norwegian Wood, treated as a funky option, allowing the saxophonist to occasionally suggest a debt to Sonny Rollins.
Probably the best of the remaining tracks is Falling In Love With Love, delivered in an uptempo fashion, full of swagger, driven by the drummer who lives up to his reputation throughout the disc.
Barshay Fly; Sonny Monk (If I Were A); Passion Dance; You Know I Care; Blackbird; Norwegian Wood; Miyako; Monk’s Dream; Falling In Love With Love (53.38)
Clark (d); Zilber (ts, ss); Matt Clark (p); Peter Barshay (d). Oakland, California, 13 March 2018.
Sunnyside Records SSC 1623