Mike Clark: Kosen Rufu

Veteran Headhunters drummer leads Eddie Henderson, Bill Summers and others in a varied set ranging from funk to straightahead


Mike Clark first came to prominence playing drums on Herbie Hancock’s highly rated second Headhunters album Thrust (Columbia, 1974). He’s been in demand ever since, playing in a wide variety of settings including with the British jazz-rock group Brand X.

Kosen Rufu (roughly translated it means to disseminate the teachings of the Buddha) boasts an impressive assemblage including two Herbie Hancock alumni, namely longstanding Headhunters percussionist Bill Summers and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, the latter playing on Hancock’s Sextant (Columbia, 1973).

The album contains a veritable smorgasbord of styles but works astoundingly well. The lively opener, First Motion, written by saxophonist Skerik (aka Eric Walton), features an extended trumpet solo by Henderson. Eric Dolphy’s Hat And Beard from Out To Lunch! (Blue Note, 1964) continues the angular theme driven by Henry Franklin’s insistent walking (and often running) bass line underpinned by Clark’s tight drumming.

The mood relaxes with MC’s Thing, a laid-back, bluesy outing written by Clark. Wayne Horvitz’s lyrical Distance Between The Leaves slows down the pace, imbued with sensitive tenor interpolations from Skerik. The majestic modal One For Mganga, named after Henderson’s Swahili moniker assigned to him on the Sextant album, changes the mood again. BBQ On Auseon and Signature recall the electro funk of The Headhunters and the magnificent Love Mingus by Skerik and Clark emulates the great master’s compositional technique with Franklin channelling Mingus’ deep, resonant bass lines.

First Motion; Hat And Beard; MC’s Thing; Distance Between Leaves; Olivia; BBQ On Auseon; One For Mganga; Love Mingus; Signature; Luconchu’s Night Out; Apparition (65.03)
Clark (d); Eddie Henderson (t); Skerik (ts); Wayne Horvitz (p, elp); Henry “The Skipper” Franklin (b); Bill Summers (pc). Berkeley, 14-15 June, 2022.
Wide Hive Records WH-0369