Release date: July 16, 2021
Label: Sunnyside Records
The culmination of a decade-long musical relationship, Mike Drop is an impressive new album co-led by iconic jazz drumming legend Mike Clark and renowned saxophonist Michael Zilber. Mike Drop features these two consummate players alongside two top Bay Area stalwarts bassist Peter Barshay and pianist Matt Clark. Recorded at Oakland’s 25th Street Studio in 2018, the tight-locked group created a buoyant celebration of time and place that is both significant and swinging.
Mike Drop demonstrates the mastery of two jazz veterans — between Mike Clark’s straight-ahead post bop drumming and Michael Zilber’s raw and refined sax mastery, the clarity and brilliance of this release is the rewarding product of a ten year-long friendship between the artists and an inspiring week of performances in the Bay Area. Mike Drop features a blend of the tunes drawn from the group’s successful series of gigs in the region back in 2018, including a sold-out performance at the San Jose Winter Jazz Festival. To preserve the charm they found together on stage, the group decided to record together in Oakland a week later.
Clark and Zilber take on a varied program on Mike Drop which includes two Zilber originals: “Barshay’s Fly”, a loving tribute to virtuoso bassist Barshay which features outstanding solos from all, and “Sonny Monk”, which is his melodic/harmonic homage to Sonny Rollins’ iconic solo on “Tune Up”. Zilber infuses a little bit of Monk and four notes from “If I Were A Bell” on this standout hard swinger.
The band also presents two reimagined Lennon/McCartney classics, both part of Zilber’s ongoing project “John and Paul Reimagined.” “Blackbird” provides a rhythmic and harmonic renovation to the McCartney-penned gem while allocating space for two uplifting extensions, first from Clark on piano and afterward, Zilber on saxophone who guides listeners back to the chorus. Zilber’s arrangement of “Norwegian Wood” morphs Lennon’s brief nod to an affair into an entirely new one, lengthening the notable ode to a melody in six different keys; an effect Michael Brecker dubbed “Zilberization.”
Other highlights include the group’s interpretation of McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance,” with a radiant opening drum solo that gives way to a funky beat, and rapid fire solos; a sweet and restrained performance of Duke Pearson’s “You Know I Care”; a haunting ethereal rendition of Wayne Shorter’s rarely recorded masterpiece “Miyako”, on which Clark’s sparkling cymbal work shines; the bass showcase “Monk’s Dream”, which was arranged by and is expertly performed by Barshay; and the joyful closer “Falling In Love With Love”, a true burner on which the band lets loose. On the project, Mike Clark offered that “…we want the listener to feel that the music is swinging, conversational and forward-looking.” It’s safe to say that on Mike Drop, it’s mission accomplished!
MORE ABOUT MIKE CLARK:
While Drummer Mike Clark gained legendary status for his game-changing playing on “Actual Proof,” on Herbie Hancock’s Thrust album (of which Hancock has said “This is the best drum solo on any of my records.”), his innovative playing can be heard on numerous jazz recordings–he has emerged as a powerful straight-ahead post-bop drummer, both as a leader, and sideman. His resume and discography reads like a who’s who of jazz icons: Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Christian McBride, Donald Harrison, Wallace Roney; but runs the gamut of genres (from his esteemed work with the cult fave British jazz/fusion Brand X, to cuts on Bette Davis and Vince Guaraldi recordings). Recently, he can be heard leading an all star band on Indigo Blue: Live at the Iridium; in a trio playing Beatles songs (Wolff, Clark and Dorsey Play Sgt. Pepper); fueling trumpet great Eddie Henderson’s most recent critically-acclaimed Smoke recordings (Shuffle and Deal and Be Cool). Mike is part of “an inimitable union of these three consummate players” on Thank You, Mr. Mabern, produced by bassist Leon Dorsey, a valentine to and final recording with the post bop maestro pianist, Harold Mabern, who passed two months after the recording. It is currently topping the Jazzweek Radio Chart. His latest effort, with pianist Michael Wolff, is Live at Vitello’s.
MORE ABOUT MICHAEL ZILBER:
San Francisco-based and Canadian-born, ex-New Yorker Michael Zilber has led or co-led more than a dozen highly lauded recordings, including several each with virtuoso drummer Steve Smith and groundbreaking guitarist John Stowell. His releases range from Quartet to Chamber Jazz to Big Band and have made several year-end best of lists, including Downbeat, KPFA, and NPR, as well as an Independent Jazz Record of the Year finalist nomination for Two Coasts. Zilber has recorded and/or performed with many jazz luminaries, including Dave Liebman, James Genus, Kai Eckhardt, David Kikoski, Miroslav Vitous, Rachel Z, Drew Gress, Clarence Penn, Dave Douglas, John Benitez, Bruce Barth, and Michael Wolff, to name just a few. He co-led a group with Steve Smith for 8 years and with John Stowell for 5. In addition, Zilber is a member of Bass phenom Eckhardt’s Resilience, trumpet master Erik Jekabson’s Stringtet and the Bay Area’s top Big Band, The Electric Squeezebox Orchestra. Jazz icon Liebman calls Michael Zilber “one of the best players and composers around anywhere. Period!”, Jazz Time’s Bill Milkowski says his compositions are “art Music of the highest order” and Paul Rauch of All About Jazz enthuses “Zilber is one of the true masters of modern jazz saxophone”.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Legendary Drummer Mike Clark And Superlative Saxophonist Michael Zilber Present Collaborative Album 'Mike Drop'. Read this announcement here.
"Three Mikes, or two Mikes and a Michael if you prefer, for the price of one as it were." Read the review here.
"And the solid program closes with a burning romp through the standard 'Falling In Love With Love.'" Read the full review in the September 2021 issue of Downbeat Magazine.