Jan 6 2017
At some point, it’s very likely you’ve heard the music of John Clark. The French horn player has recorded and performed with musicians that hit every point along the vast spectrum of expressions that comprise the Jazz lineage. The first time I heard Clark perform was a winter afternoon in Denver. I brushed the snow off my jacket and felt the welcome embrace of heat just inside the doorway of Jerry’s Record Exchange, a great music shop on Colfax Avenue, just east of downtown and the 16th Street Mall. Of the many excellent music stores in Denver back in the 90s, Jerry’s was my main stop when it came to feeding my music addiction.
Jazz had got its hooks in me years earlier, but the shop owner, John Loquidis, always had plenty of new artists and albums to recommend at me. A NYC beat poet who could tell back-in-the-day stories about Sonny Rollins and Eric Dolphy, John was always happy to steer me to music that had brought him happiness, too. He played music over the store’s stereo, and as I made my way to the new arrivals section, he put on a new CD. It grabbed my ear immediately. It had a cool locomotion for a cadence and it had hints of spiritual jazz to accompany its large ensemble classical influence. I was hopping in place to the music, and only a little bit of my activity was to get the warmth back into my feet. I was seriously digging this music. And then all of the sudden, it hit me. That melody I was hearing… it was John Coltrane’s “India.”
I turned to look at John, and as I approached the front counter, I asked, who is this?! He picked up the CD case and said, “John Clark. It’s his new album.” He handed me the case for I Will. As John told me that Clark was a bad-ass French horn player that all kinds of jazz musicians hired when they wanted some classical music influence, I noticed on the songlist that Clark also did a cover of Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin” and there was an intriguing 3-part “96th Street Sonata.” John was in the process of mentioning an ECM Records release when I looked up and said, “I’m buying this.” He chuckled and said I was the third person who’d bought the album after hearing it over the store speakers. I had no difficulty believing that claim. It’s been twenty years since I first heard it, and even now when I hit the play button, the music fills me joy and euphoria and hopefulness.
The rest of the album I enjoy just fine. That three-part “96th Street Sonata” displays a punchy attitude, and keeps the focus on its cadence. A rendition of “My One and Only Love” takes the aspirations of a ballad to heart. “Bad Attitude” swings plenty, but throws some left hooks for good measure. The rendition of “Airegin” is plenty fun, especially in the way Clark’s French horn and the tuba of guest musician Bob Stewart pinball notes off one another while straddling the line that separates melodic development and rhythmic support. And the title-track “I Will” is a standout tune. A mid-tempo piece that serves up some heat as it paints a gorgeous melodic scene, it possesses a blues streak that isn’t far removed from some of Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack works.
When I pop this CD into the player, I keep it in for the duration. But there’s no doubt it’s that amazing rendition of “India” that keeps the dust from ever accumulating on this must-have recording.
Your album personnel: John Clark (French horn), Bruce Ditmas (drums), Alex Foster (tenor & soprano saxes), Pete Levin (keyboard), Mike Richmond (bass) and guests: Trevor Clark (sitar), Stanton Davis (trumpet), Chris Hunter (flute, alto sax), Ryo Kawasaki (guitar), Howard Johnson (bass clarinet), Bob Stewart (tuba) and Dave Taylor (trombone, bass trombone).
Released in 1997 on Postcards Records.
Jazz from NYC.
Available at: Amazon
You can also buy the music directly from John Clark at his label site, Hidden Meaning Music.