Scott Clark: Dawn & Dusk

Drummer leads quintet in grey, forbidding music coming out of the hard-bop mould but with a marked individuality


As far as I can hear this music is marked by a pervasive solemnity, and while there might be plenty in this world to feel solemn about, being “on trend” is hardly a reason to be cheerful. The line-up is essentially that of the hard / post-bop staple, and although the music is no small distance from the countless recorded precedents of that, and it undoubtedly has identity of its own, I found it hard to get past what I found to be its rather forbidding surface.

Thus the studio version of Silent Singing consists in no small part of solemn horn parts underpinned by drumming of the interventionist order before Laura Ann Singh adds a vocal line in unison with those parts. The lyric includes references to “the color gray in all it’s (sic) shades’” and “gray tones and loud songs”, which essentially summarise the musical proceedings in both this version and the live counterpart.

In common with everything else the title piece is offered in both studio and live versions. The studio version comes in at four minutes and seven seconds, while the live version is 14 minutes and 38 seconds. The time difference is marked not by a group stretching out in any conventional sense, but rather a group intent on reiterating the mood established in the studio version, at least as far as I can hear.

Above The Gray is arguably the least “shaded” piece in the sense that Kuhl on bass clarinet cuts loose from the solemn restraint and McNeil’s piano augments the ambiguous, hard-to-define mood; the live exposition varies little from the studio version, even in terms of length.

In all, this might well be one of the most distinctive things I’ve heard this year. I just wish I could have got more out of it and that I could have found more positive things to say about it.

The Wind; Dawn & Dusk; Silent Singing; Above The City; The Wind (Live); Dawn & Dusk (Live); Silent Singing (Live); Above The City (Live) (65.11)
Bob Miller (t, flh);  J.C. Kuhl (bcl, ts); Michael McNeill (p); Adam Hopkins (b); Clark (d). 16 August 2021 and 8 March 2022.
Out Of Your Head Records OOYH021