Mike Clark Plays Herbie Hancock

SSC1692 2023-05-26

Track List

Toys - 7:19
Speak Like A Child - 7:12
Dual Force - 4:03
Dolphin Dance - 7:26
Sorcerer - 5:24
Chan's Song Never Said - 5:33
Empty Pockets - 5:58
Actual Proof - 3:35


Mike Clark - drums
Jon Davis - piano
Leon Lee Dorsey - bass

The music of Herbie Hancock has affected the lives of generations of jazz performers. Like many of these musicians, it was the opportunity to play with the great pianist/composer that introduced the great drummer Mike Clark to the jazz world at large. To show his appreciation, Clark presents a selection of his favorite Hancock pieces performed with a trio on his new recording, Mike Clark Plays Herbie Hancock.

Mike Clark was a burgeoning professional drummer in the Bay Area during the late 1960s. He regularly played post-bop gigs with Woody Shaw and Bobby Hutcherson, but it was in organ trios and funky gigs with his friend, bassist Paul Jackson, that really cemented Clark’s standing on the scene.

At the time, Hancock’s ground-breaking, electric Mwandishi ensemble broke up due to financial constraints. Hancock began to regroup a smaller, funkier ensemble and hired Jackson. Hancock initially had Harvey Mason for the drum chair, but his work constraints wouldn’t allow him to join. Jackson recommended Clark for the group and the Headhunters were born.

Clark’s tenure with Hancock and the Headhunters broke the drummer into the jazz consciousness and allowed him to do some revolutionary things on his instrument. Eventually, the pull of acoustic jazz playing was too much for Clark to deny and he settled in New York City and joined its incredible jazz scene. Clark remains indebted to Hancock for opening the door to a wider audience. Hancock also introduced Clark to the study of Buddhism.

Though he was known for his association with some of Hancock’s funkiest music, it was the sophisticated contemporary sounds of Hancock’s 1960s Blue Note recordings that Clark appreciated most. Clark knew that if he recorded any of his former boss’s music, it would be these pieces that he would love to take on.

Once Clark decided he wanted to go for the project, he knew just the musicians he would incorporate in a trio. Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and pianist Jon Davis have been longtime collaborators, open to any stylistic challenge and, mostly importantly, they always swing. It just so happened that Dorsey had studio time available at Manhattan Sky Studio in New York City at the beginning of June 2022, where the trio convened and recorded a program of Hancock tunes in one or two takes, apiece.