Release date: September 16, 2022
Label: Outside in Music
Intertwine is the electrifying new release from Clark Sommers and the debut of his new 5-piece outfit Clark Sommers Lens. A follow-up to Sommers’ critically acclaimed 2020 release Peninsula, Intertwine captures Sommers’ dynamic compositional style in a new light. The album features guitar as the primary harmonic instrument, and draws inspiration from rock and soul musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, and the Beatles. With a stellar frontline of horn players and a rocksteady rhythm section, Sommers is in great company on this adventurous outing. Alongside Sommers, Intertwine features Chris Madsen on tenor saxophone, Geof Bradfield on bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone, Matt Gold on guitar, and Dana Hall on drums and cymbals.
Met with widespread acclaim, 2020’s Peninsula was recognized by JazzTimes as an album which “resonates with hardcore jazz fans and non-jazz listeners alike.” Intertwine features a fuller instrumentation, filling out the trio of artists present on Peninsula – Sommers, Geof Bradfield and Dana Hall, with an ever-present sonic backdrop provided by guitarist Matt Gold, and the addition of celebrated tenor saxophonist Chris Madsen. Sommers uses this instrumentation to capture a celebration of tight-saxophone harmonies
With this instrumentation, Sommers celebrates Madsen and Bradfield’s complimentary sounds with tight-knit harmonies reminiscent of two birds flying with one another, one seemingly emerging from the shadow of the other creating a cyclical or rather, a mirror image.
The bassist and composer notes “The title intertwine comes from this idea that we need each other. This was made abundantly clear during the pandemic and I wanted to write the melodies based on how they could be perceived as being conversational. Of course Jazz has this conversational element tied into its ethos but I wanted to blur the perception between definitive, single-line melodies and two lines playing simultaneously – in other words, two lines weaving in and out of one another to appear as though they could be 2 soloists playing off of one another, when they are actually two separate, written lines.”
The album’s opening track “Also Tomorrow”, muses on the notion of a brighter world in which we live in a time of genuine healing and reconciliation in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The piece features wonderfully musical solos from both saxophonists as well as drummer Dana Hall. The album continues with “James Marshall” -James Marshall being Jimi’s birth name and is an exploration on “the Hendrix #9 chord” to. Guitarist Matt Gold is featured here, conjuring Hendrix’s musical attitude, combined with his own harmonic conceptions. The horn players play a supporting role throughout Gold’s solo, with musical harmonic jabs and backing figures. Sommers and Hall fall into a tight-pocket groove on this piece, reminding the audience of the tight interplay that can be expected from these two perennial, Chicago-based collaborators. Following truly transcendent saxophone solos, the ensemble simmers down into the melody and ends the piece on the chord that guitarists and Hendrix-enthusiasts alike will recognize.
“Second Guess” strikes a decidedly different chord, harkening back to a Jazz Messengers rhythmic and harmonic aesthetic paired with some modern twists from the brain of Mr. Sommers. Both saxophonists demonstrate their melodic prowess while the stellar rhythm section provides accompaniment reminiscent to the brief but shining moment when Kevin Eubanks introduced guitar to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and Hall is channeling both the power and nuance of Mr. Blakey himself. Sommers indicates that this composition” implores us to be fully in the moment that we’re in, without too much judgment, anxiety and self-doubt.”
Intertwine is an album that draws influence from the worlds of jazz, rock, R&B and soul, and a particular influence on Sommers was the work of Donny Hathaway. “Weeks and Weeks” in particular draws influence from Hathaway’s sound and, notably, Hathaway’s bassist Willie Weeks for whom the song is titled. The horn players stay in tight harmony throughout the duration of this serene composition. The album’s final track, and title-track “Intertwine” seems to really meditate on Sommers’ notion of the importance of human interconnectedness, a true feeling of resolution emanates from this ensemble piece. “Intertwine” is a truly spectacular demonstration of the divine subtleties that often lie within Sommers’ compositions – his nuanced balance of space and density, and his masterful understanding of melodicism. Sommers utilizes his instrumentation to express his tremendous musical nature, and writes with the rawest of human emotion and experience in mind, and the ensemble truly rises to the occasion. In Sommers own words, “The members of the group brought this music to life in a way that was beyond my imagination.”
Release date: March 6, 2020
Label: Outside In Music
Bassist and composer Clark Sommers’ Peninsula is the enthralling new album from his Chicago supertrio made up of three world-class musicians: Sommers, saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall. These musical comrades have performed with each other for over twenty years, a fact that becomes obvious when one beholds the stunning cohesiveness they have as an ensemble, which was characterized best by Sommers assertion that the trio “breathes as one entity.” On this new release, Ba(SH) offers listeners seven new compositions by consummate bassist Clark Sommers; a large sound from a decidedly paired-down instrumentation.
Recorded in Chicago in Spring 2017, Peninsula is a follow up to the trio’s 2013’s critically-acclaimed debut Ba(Sh). Sommers notes “This chord-less trio format presents many possibilities because of the absence of piano/guitar driven harmony. The bass acts as more of an immediate pivot for the harmony and is therefore more open-ended.” Given this freedom, the trio explores the realms of harmony, melody and texture while telling tales of loss and personal discovery with their evocative instrumental performance. “I specifically wrote the music for those 2 personalities,” asserts Sommers, “I’ve been playing with them for over 20 years and they’re 2 of my closest friends and collaborators.”
Peninsula begins with the driving groove-centric “High-Tide”, Sommers’ bass takes the fore in the melody of this muscular composition. Stunning interplay is displayed between the three consummate musicians. Composer Clark Sommers likens the repeated refrains of “High Tide” to the tides of the ocean, and the waltz at the end of the piece depicts the disorientation associated with swimming in a sea of confusion and not-knowing; a statement about our current socio-political climate. The album progresses with a textural foray in the next track “Morning Bell”. This second track utilizes collective improvisation to build and release tension in a masterful fashion. The track harkens back to the traditional sound of indian ragas with notes of the later work of John Coltrane drawing the listener into the sound of this dynamic trio’s modern sound.
The third track, “Goes Around” is a bright-tempoed swing sending the listener back to the realm of Ornette Coleman. On this track, saxophonist Geof Bradfield and Sommers display their stellar improvisational facility, dictating the path of the piece by conjuring supple melodies, complemented by drummer Dana Hall’s sensitive, reactive performance. “The Forgotten” begins with a beautiful counterpoint between an ostinato bass figure and Bradfield’s lilting melodic refrains. This thoughtful, contemplative composition features Bradfield as a soloist while Sommers and Dana Hall lock into a pulsing groove. The track is a musical depiction of loss and rediscovery.
Bradfield takes the lead on the album’s next track “Maybe Never”. The laid-back, ominous, sinewy melody meets with Sommers’ countermelody creating a darkness perfectly balanced by Bradfield’s euphoric improvisation on the next track “Hope Dance”. The album ends on a high with the spirited track “Disambiguation”, a powerful uptempo composition with a declarative melody played by Bradfield; a final resolution to this landmark recording.
More About the Artist:
Grammy award winning bassist Clark Sommers was born and raised in Illinois and cut his “jazz teeth” in Chicago. He has been touring the world since 2008 and has enjoyed playing for audiences in the US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, Istanbul, Paris, South Africa, Scotland, Russia, Canary Islands and many cities in between with Grammy award winning Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling. Clark can be heard on seven Elling recordings including “Dedicated You” which won a Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album in 2009. When not on the road with Kurt Elling, Clark enjoys leading his own band, Ba(SH). The group includes long-time friends and collaborators Dana Hall and Geof Bradfield. The group's first recording, self-titled Ba(SH), was released in August 2013 and has received critical acclaim. It was acknowledged on the "notable and not to be missed" list by All About Jazz in 2013. In 2017, he released his second recording as a band-leader, including all original compositions called ‘By A Thread’.
The Clark Sommers Lens Project which features Kendrick Scott on drums, Jeff Parker on guitar and Gary Versace on organ. Clark also composes and plays bass in Typical Sisters, a trio comprised of Greg Uhlmann and Matt Carroll. The group released its second album, ‘Hungry Ghost’ in March, 2019 and was included on The New York Times and Best of Band Camp playlists. Additionally, in 2017, Clark has released a co-led recording with John McLean featuring renowned vibraphonist, Joe Locke called ‘Parts Unknown’. Clark has also had the privilege of performing and recording with Portland pianist and composer Darrell Grant in his “Territory” and “Step by Step” ensembles with Brian Blade, Joe Locke and Steve Wilson.
He completed his undergraduate degree in Jazz Studies and World Music at the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with bass masters Charlie Haden and Darek Oles. He continues to seek expansion of his craft by pursuing his musical studies with David Grossman of the New York Philharmonic, Mike Longo, Greg Sarchet and Stefon Harris. He recently completed two educational residencies at the Brubeck Institute in Stockton, California. Clark currently resides in Chicago and can be heard performing with groups led by drummer Dana Hall, Geof Bradfield, Adam Larson, Chris Madsen, Scott Hesse, Nate Lepine, The Chicago Yestet and Dan Cray, among others.
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"Sommers has composed music with strong melodies that gives the ensemble plenty of room to create cogent solos and for Hall to experiment underneath the solid foundations the leaders creates." Read the review here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"This is an absolutely stonking group playing high energy jazz, dragging in influences from a variety of sources and trampling clichés in the dust." Read the review here.
"With Sommers in command of the operations, the collective's efforts yielded favorable results." Read the review here.
"The album's formally credited to Clark Sommers Lens, a fiery unit fronted by the bassist.." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"The compositions by Sommers are well-written." Read the review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"The album's title itself suggest that the music covers a wide range of musical notions and sees them intersect elegantly. And, impressively, the cast is up for the task." Read the review here.
"The interaction between the players is paramount to the success of this kind of venture and its evident from the first listening that these guys are longtime friends, possessing the kind of empathy and trust that comes from a well evolved musical relationship." Read the full review here.
"A listener can hear all that in the music of Ba(SH) on Peninsula, which resonates with hardcore jazz fans and non-jazz listeners alike. And you don’t have to be from Chicago to appreciate its raw power and simple beauty. All it takes is an appreciation for music with muscularity and intelligence, and a certain comfort with unpredictability."Read the full feature here.
"A promontory jutting into the waters of possibility, this particular Peninsula is a truly valuable piece of land." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"The illusory nature of Sommers' music is on bright display on "Hope Dance," a true lesson in listening to three men work, laugh, divine and concur." Read the full review here.
"One could put Peninsula on repeat and hear something new each time. Clark Sommers' Ba(SH) plays spirited music that refer to its predecessors yet is firmly situated in the here and now." Read the full review here.
CHICAGO JAZZ MAGAZINE
"The ideas on Peninsula are an extension of Sommers’ first record, Ba(SH) (Origin, 2013); here, they are crystallized and further matured. Additionally, Sommers wrote the entire work—endowing it with an engaging cohesiveness. This makes it necessary to listen to it in one sitting for a fuller appreciation of its nuances and the bassist’s artistry." Read the full review here.
"Solid stuff throughout, this is a must for listeners that like to let their ears do the heavy lifting while they sit back and take it all in." Read the full review here.
"While Peninsula serves to document a band two decades (and unfortunately only two albums) into its performing life, the recording also makes a point about Chicago and the players who call the city home. No matter how talented and well-credentialed Sommers, Bradfield and Hall are, they’re not necessarily the most visible players on the city’s scene. That’s how deep it is." Review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Because Ba(sh), a trio defined only by the elementary concept that 1+1+1=3, converse as one on Peninsula. Thereby making Sommers' rather simmering, seven scrutinies welcome respites from the breaking news and insistent chatter that bombards us all from any myriad of sources at any given, riven moment." Review here.