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Doctor's Orders 

Famed drummer Mike Clark plays the Fillmore

Wednesday, Jun 20 2001
One of the key elements of funk is the pump of the trap drummer -- the steady pulse of syncopated energy that creates the almighty groove along with electric bass, guitar, and keyboards. In the Bay Area, we have a legacy of excellent drummers, many of whom helped originate such urban R&B beats, among them David Garibaldi (Tower of Power), the late Gaylord Birch (Pointer Sisters/Cold Blood), and Sacramento-born Mike Clark.

Best known for his work in the mid-1970s with Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters, Clark is as comfortable behind a straight-ahead jazz combo in a nightclub as he is elevated on a back-line platform in front of thousands of people. Based on his collaborations with Hancock on groove-oriented funk excursions like Thrust and Flood -- and numerous stints with Vince Guaraldi (he played on his classic Peanuts recordings), Bobby Hutcherson, Chet Baker, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, and Bobby Freeman -- Clark has become a guru to an emerging generation. As a result, he's one of the most sampled drummers in hip hop.

Now the drum doctor is mixing up a new elixir called Mike Clark's Prescription Renewal, featuring tunes that Clark fueled, like Hancock's "Watermelon Man" and "Butterfly." With Berkeley's Charlie Hunter on eight-string guitar, Robert Walter on Fender Rhodes piano, turntablist DJ Logic, and Skerik on sax, Clark's concoction is the latest on a growing list of jazz jam bands that also includes Medeski, Martin & Wood and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe.

One of the special things about Prescription Renewal is the musical relationship between Clark and Hunter -- a superb interplay of wailing drums and impressive guitar skill, itself dancing between strings and producing bass lines, phased-out harmonies, and melodic counterpoints. Catch them together this weekend, or you're sure to be sick about it.

About The Author

Jesse "Chuy" Varela


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