FAME Review: Joe Clark Big Band - Lush
Joe Clark Big Band - Lush


Joe Clark Big Band

Jazzed Media - JM1060

Available from Jazzed Media.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Oh hell yeah! This is big band music with a highly cinematic feel, muscle, blood, and neon lights blaring at midnight. Strikingly, Joe Clark isn't just a musician, composer, and arranger but also a stochastic aesthete who's been charting out the near future, a landscape drawn from his own trumpet expertise amid the forest of instruments around him, accounting for some daring experiments, like those way too hip blatting horn squibs during Well You Needn't, not to mention the many interjections in Free Wheeling. An accompanying high energy keeps his tip-top ensemble bristlingly on its toes, demanding the best and getting even more than that. I mean, Monk himself will come dancing out of the grave when he hears Clark's take on his timeless gem, and Lush is chockful of precisely that kind of audaciousness.

Clark is himself rather prepossessing, claiming that this is the next wave of great Chicago music and, normally, I'd say "Cah-mon, Joe, tone it down!", but he's right, this is truly a new wrinkle on an old mode, one born of a highly trained ability that's manifesting in an unavoidably infectious idiosyncrasy. Look, there are large traces of Bernard Herrman throughout the disc as well, both on the bombastic and on the quiet sides, not to mention all kinds of innovative adjuncts, but step over that a moment and you're in the middle of generous neo-Romantic strains as well, as in his take on Strayhorn's Lush Life. The pure physical visual reading of the charts alone had to have been Lenny Bernsteinish for anyone scanning 'em, complex and aesthetically breathtaking.

Don't take my word for any of this; look instead to Ira Sullivan, Yo Yo Ma, Phil Woods, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and any number of notables who can't wait to perform his work. But forget even them, and listen to Mike Pinto's sparklingly dancing guitar work, Jeff Hamilton's nimble drums, Joe Policastro's bass, and then all those glorious horns, especially as they pick Samba de Martelo back up after the dazzling middle eight solos, doubling the zest they'd left off just minutes before. Trust me, Joe Clark isn't being egotistical when he speaks of his contribution to the locale's history, 'cause New Orleans will, I very strongly suspect, be vacationing in Chicago this summer in order to get the lowdown on the competition…just before sprinting back home sweating, furiously applying quill to stave sheet with Chi-town's newest echoes ringing in its ears.

Track List:

  • Well You Needn't (Thelonius Monk)
  • Red Sky (Joe Clark)
  • Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn)
  • Samba de Martelo (Jeff Hamilton)
  • Free-Wheeling (Joe Clark)
  • Femme Fatale (Joe Clark)
  • Tenderly (Walter Gross)
  • Yesterday's Gardenias (Mysels / Cogane / Robertson)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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