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Mike Clark's Carnival of Soul

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Add an “s” to the end of the title of Mike Clark’s new album and you’ve got yourself a low-budget 1962 horror film shot featuring a prominent and creepy organ score — and an undead church organist in the lead role. It’s a fantastic (and intentionally allusive) title for an album showcasing the Hammond B-3 in several guises, including traditional B-3 trio settings and more kinetic funk and bebop. Clark, the drummer for Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters in the ‘70s, might just have become the most widely recognizable artist in the Owl Studios stable when he was signed earlier this year. Carnival of Soul, his first release on the label as a solo artist, precedes a release by the Headhunters (sans Hancock in their current incarnation) slated for release on Owl this fall.

Carnival of Soul — which features contributions by three organists, with Clark behind the set throughout — is a fun, thoughtful, sometimes virtuosic set that sees Clark in the foreground when appropriate (uptempo numbers like “Bookin’” and “Run Straight Down”) and an unassuming ensemble member when not (the slightly florid ballad “Cry Me a River,” featuring expressive vocals by Delbert McClinton). There’s also a nice balance between danceable, groovy numbers that hearken back to an era when a 7-inch by an jazz group could actually chart (“T’s Boogaloo,” “Angel Eyes”) and more cerebral tunes (the ever-modern “Monk’s Dream,” with Clark imitating Monk’s percussive style in the absence of a piano; “Water on the Moon,” with its tricky time signatures but constant pulse; “Bookin,’” with its invigorating morse code riff and, finally, its extended solo for Clark). The closing number, “Catlett Outta the Bag,” is a darker, funkier and heavier piece that acknowledges Clark’s fusion work, and that may foreshadow what he’s working up with the Headhunters. Rob Dixon contributes two excellent solos on the album, hitting a bebop riff hard on “Turok: Son of Stone” just when the record drags for minute.

"T's Boogaloo" (via Owl Studios):

"Bookin'" (via Owl):

Clark will perform twice while in town: Wednesday at Eagle Creek Park for Owl Studio’s Jazz at the Point series and Saturday at The Jazz Kitchen.

Eagle Creek Park, 7840 W. 56th St.,
Wednesday, June 16, 6:30 p.m., free with admission, all-ages

The Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Ave.
Saturday, June 19, 8 and 10 p.m., $15, 21+

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