Kenny Clarke

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Kenny Clarke

Kenny "Klook" Clarke (* 9. January 1914 in Pittsburgh as Kenneth Clarke Spearman , Pennsylvania ; † 26. January 1985 in Paris , France ) was a jazz - vibraphone player and percussionist . Clarke is considered an early innovator in the bebop drum style; as a drummer in Minton's Playhouse in the early 1940s, he played an essential role in the development of modern jazz . The development of the Ride basin as the primary clock generator goes back to him . Before that, the drummers used the snare drum with strong support from the kick drum . With Clarke the rhythm was put on the cymbal and bass and snare were used more for accentuation.

Live and act

Early years

Clarke came from a musical family and studied numerous instruments in high school and joined the local Leroy Bradley Big Band while still in school , where he stayed for five years. In Pittsburgh he also played with Roy Eldridge , who is also from there. In 1935 he moved to New York with his half-brother Frank Spearman , where he first played in a trio with Call Cobbs and became known in the band of tenor saxophonist Lonnie Simmons . The later Basie guitarist Freddie Green also played in this formation . The rhythm section of the Simmons band is said to have been a major inspiration for the Count Basie Band and many swing musicians.

"Freddie Green and I got something going in Lonnie's band - long before the new rhythmic way of playing drums was even noticed."

“We always got to work early - at least forty-five minutes before the others - and worked out new patterns. The results swung. The waitresses liked that. "

He was already laying more basic strokes on the hi-hat, which was built by drummers themselves at the time, was knee-high and was called a sock pool.

“The way the rhythm section bounced knocked Basie down. And I'm sure he changed his piano style after listening to "Fat (s)" Atkins (piano). Because when Basie came from Kansas, he played a heavy piano, so to speak with both fists, almost like James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. "

In April 1937, Clarke joined the Edgar Hayes Band; Kenny Clarke also played the vibraphone back then . His first recording was made on March 9, 1937 with the Hayes band. At the end of 1937, Clarke went on a European tour with Hayes for the first time. During the four-month tour in Stockholm , Clarke recorded four records under his own name ("I Found a New Baby"). When the Hayes band returned to New York and performed at the Apollo Theater , Dizzy Gillespie joined the company. Gillespie, from whom he was nicknamed Klook , became Klook's best friend and colleague. Dizzy stayed only briefly in the Hayes band and went back to Teddy Hill's band , where Kenny Clarke met him again after eight months with Claude Hopkins .

Minton's Playhouse

Together with Dizzy in Teddy Hill's band, the drummer had less inhibitions about realizing his musical ideas, which he had been thinking about for years; Clarke later told Leonard Feather that when he arranged the Hill Band's song "Swanee River," he began to play "arousing off- rhythms. (...) Diz was fascinated; that gave him exactly the drive he wanted, and he started building his stuff around it ”. Kenny's innovations were based on “coordinated independence”. That is, the left hand is coupled with the right foot, the right hand with the left foot. “That was the basis of the most important rhythmic revolution in jazz history,” said Clarke's biographer Mike Hennessey .

In 1939 Clarke left the Hill band because of a falling out; Clarke was then the house drummer in the "Apollo". In 1940 he returned to Hill, when his band acted as the house band of Minton's Playhouse in Harlem. There he played with Thelonious Monk and Nick Fenton in a trio - they accompanied guest musicians like Charlie Christian in the famous jam sessions. In addition, he also played with stars of traditional jazz music such as Louis Armstrong (on tour 1941/2), Ella Fitzgerald , Benny Carter , Henry Red Allen . In 1942 Clarke left Minton's and played with his own band in one of the jazz clubs on 52nd Street , Kelly's Staples ; his old colleagues Monk and Nick Fenton played in the group, along with trumpeter Roy Nelson and tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec ; the quintet was called "Kenny Clarke's Kansas City Six" for some unknown reason. In Kelly's Staple , Clarke also played with the Benny Carter Septet, to which Dizzy Gillespie was a member at the time.

the post war period

From 1943 to 1946 he was in the Army in a band as a trombonist, where he met John Lewis . During his service he married the singer Carmen McRae in the summer of 1944 . At the beginning of 1946, after being stationed near Heidelberg , he returned to the States. Shortly after his discharge from the army, he converted to Islam and took the name Liaquat Ali Salaam, but avoided openly professing his new religion. He then joined the second Dizzy Gillespie Big Band , which had been founded in May 1946 and with which he was touring Europe (Paris). There he made recordings for Delaunay's Swing label. a. with Hubert Fol , Michel de Villers and Jean Claude Fohrenbach , as well as with an octet with Howard McGhee , Jimmy and Percy Heath , which appeared on Prestige .

In 1947 he left the Gillespie band and played with Tadd Dameron in the Royal Roost and in the big band of Billy Eckstine . During this time, his formation "52nd Street Boys" made recordings with musicians who largely came from Gillespie's big band, such as Sonny Stitt , Kenny Dorham , Bud Powell , John Collins and Al Hall . The octet recorded four arrangements by Gil Fuller , " Epistrophy ", "Oop Bop Sh'Bam", Monk's " 52nd Street Theme " and "Rue Chaptal"; the four pages for the French swing label by Charles Delaunay were the first bebop recordings to be released in Europe. In December 1947 Clarke returned for a long time to Dizzy and worked on his recordings for RCA Victor and went with him to Europe; after the tour he stayed in Paris for five months.

In April 1949, Kenny Clarke took part in sessions on the Miles Davis album Birth of the Cool ; he was also the drummer on the final tracks for this album, which were written on March 13, 1950. In spring 1949 he was invited to the Festival International 1949 de Jazz ; then he stayed there for several months and met 18-year-old Annabelle Macaulay Allan Short, who was just starting her career as a singer under the name Annie Ross ; the relationship comes from their son Kenny Clarke Jr., called "Toby", who then grew up with Clarke's relatives in Pittsburgh.

In the winter of 1949 Clarke went on a European tour with Coleman Hawkins , James Moody , Nat Peck and Pierre Michelot ; in April 1951 he returned to the USA, in August he took part in a record session with Charlie Parker ("Swedish Schnapps" / "Blues for Alice").

Around this time, Clarke became a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet , which initially operated as the Milt Jackson Quartet, and made numerous recordings as a studio musician for Savoy Records . Connie Kay took over his place in the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1955 - Clarke did not like the “sedate” atmosphere in the MJQ, in his opinion, but he remained friends with John Lewis .

His work in the studios 1951–1956

Of the many recordings Clarke made between 1951 and 1956, according to his biographer Mike Hennessey, the one with Miles Davis in 1954 was the most famous. On April 29th, the drummer took part in the legendary " Walkin ' " session; with JJ Johnson , Lucky Thompson , Percy Heath and Horace Silver in the studio . Commenting on Clarke's role, Ian Carr said, "Clarke's tremendously sensitive and subtle use of the hi-hat, which he opens and closes to underline the rhythm of the subject, adds to the drama." Two months later, Clarke made additional recordings with Miles and Sonny Rollins ; " Oleo ", "Airegin", "Doxy" and "But Not for Me" were recorded. Then he was the drummer on Miles Davis' legendary Christmas session with Thelonious Monk and Milt Jackson. These sessions with Miles "again demonstrated the devoted, selfless, and supportive manner in which Kenny Clarke approached his craft."

From this time on Kenny Clarke began to work more and more for the jazz label Savoy ; Ozzie Cadena had also hired him as a sort of talent scout and house drummer for an annual salary of $ 7,000. In the course of the following years Clarke also recorded his own albums for Savoy and brought musicians such as Horace Silver, Bobby Jaspar , Pepper Adams , Paul Chambers , Donald Byrd and Tommy Flanagan to the Newarker label. His most spectacular discovery was Julian "Cannonball" Adderley , who recorded two albums for Savoy, but then - on Kenny Clarke's advice - switched to Mercury . Clarke worked for Savoy until August 1956 and recorded many albums with a rhythm section that established itself as a house band: himself, Wendell Marshall (bass) and Hank Jones (piano). He worked with Gigi Gryce , Oscar Pettiford , Nat Adderley , Hank Mobley , Frank Foster and Joe Wilder . However, Clarke soon tired of the stress of being a session musician; the chance for change arose when he met the French band leader Michel Legrand during an engagement with Phineas Newborn , who put him in the band of his uncle Jacques Hélian .

In Europe from 1956

From 1956 Clarke lived in France , where he played with touring US musicians in Paris , partly in the trio "The Bosses" with Bud Powell and Pierre Michelot . At the same time he wrote the music for some French films around this time, such as the 1957 soundtrack Ascenseur pour l'échafaud with Miles Davis for Louis Male's masterpiece Elevator to the Scaffold . As early as November 1956, the album Kenny Clarke Plays André Hodeir with René Urtreger , Martial Solal with arrangements of titles such as " Round About Midnight ", " Jeru " and "The Squirrel" was created. After the Hélian band broke up, Clarke worked as a house drummer in "Olympia" with the pianist Hazel Scott , then in "Club St. Germain" with Martial Solal and Pierre Michelot. In 1957 he worked with Quincy Jones, who was studying in Paris .

In the late 1950s, Clarke was primarily employed as a studio musician; he worked with Henri Renaud , Sidney Bechet , Stéphane Grappelli , Lucky Thompson, Milt Jackson, Stan Getz , Chet Baker and last recordings of Lester Young in Paris before his death. Under the direction of Quincy Jones he played in the Eddie Barclay Orchestra and accompanied a. a. Sarah Vaughan at her “ Misty ” session for Mercury in 1958 . On October 30, 1957 he performed with Bud Powell together; in December, the collaboration with guitarist Jimmy Gourley , who had returned from New York, began. From the beginning of 1959, Clarke was house drummer in the newly opened Club Blue Note with Gourly and Art Simmons ; with a break, Clarke would work at the club until 1966. In 1961 a jazz club in London was named after him or one of his records Klooks Kleek .

The Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland Big Band

At the suggestion of Gigi Campi , in 1961 he formed a sextet with the Belgian pianist Francy Boland , which was later expanded to become a big band and existed for eleven years (until 1973), the Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland Big Band , in which other expatriates such as Idrees Sulieman at times , Johnny Griffin , Sahib Shihab played. In between dates with the big band, Boland and Clarke had a number of sessions with smaller ensembles in which various musicians from the band played, including Johnny Griffin, Fats Sadi and Sahib Shihab, as well as recordings with singer Mark Murphy in octets. From 1969 the big band had hired Kenny Clare as another drummer to relieve Clarke. 1973 came the end of the band; Kenny Clarke later said in an interview: "It was a fantastic and unique experience from which I benefited a lot." About Clarke's importance as a co-bandleader, Kenny Clare later said: "I have not known anyone who could stay so calm".

Last years

Even after his time as a band leader, he was a fixture in the French jazz scene, working as a freelancer and teaching. In 1969 Claude Nobs invited him to hold a workshop with his drum school as part of the Montreux Jazz Festival . In 1973 he played again in Montreux with Dexter Gordon, Hampton Hawes and Bob Cranshaw . He also played in the 1970s in a trio with the organists Eddy Louiss and Lou Bennett and the guitarists Jimmy Gourley and René Thomas . Kenny Clarke played jazz and church music with the clarinetist Jean-Christian Michel for ten years , and also worked with Rhoda Scott , Hal Singer and the French musicians Michel de Villers and Roger Guérin . Clarke made only a dozen recordings between 1974 and 1984; In 1975 he had a heart attack. In 1980 he took part with Sonny Stitt, Jackie McLean, Slide Hampton a. a. participated in a Dizzy Gillespie retrospective. In 1982 he came back to the USA, where he recorded the album Pieces of Time ; Contributors included Andrew Cyrille , Don Moye and Milford Graves . The plan for 1985 was to put together a band of American musicians who had played in Paris during the "Golden Age", such as Woody Shaw , Dizzy Reece , Johnny Griffin, Kenny Drew and others. a. However, this never happened; Kenny Clarke died in the morning hours of January 26, 1985 after suffering a fatal heart attack.

In 1983 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship .

Discographic notes

  • Special Kenny Clarke 1938–1959 (Jazz Muse) with Benny Bailey, Clark Terry, Hubert Fol, Lucky Thompson, Tommy Scott, Art Simmons, Jimmy Gourley, Pierre Michelot
  • Telefunken Blues (Savoy, 1955) with Henry Coker , Frank Morgan , Frank Wess, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath
  • Bohemia After Dark (Savoy, 1955) with Cannonball & Nat Adderley, Jerome Richardson , Hank Jones, Horace Silver, Paul Chambers
  • Jazz Men Detroit (Savoy, 1956) with Pepper Adams , Kenny Burrell , Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers
  • Plays André Hodeir (Philips / Emarcy, 1956) with Roger Guérin, Billy Byers , Pat Peck, Hubert Rostaing , Martial Solal, René Urtreger, P. Michelot
  • Kenny Clarke, Francy Boland & Co.- The Golden 8 (Blue Note, 1961)
  • Pieces of Time ( Soul Note , 1983) Andrew Cyrille , Don Moye and Milford Graves


  • Mike Hennessey: Memories of KLOOK. The life of Kenny Clarke . With discography on CD-ROM, translated by Christel Menges, Hannibal Verlag, Höven 2004, ISBN 3-85445-245-4
  • Kunzler: Jazzlexikon 2002

Web links

References, notes

  1. see also Clarke ( Memento of the original from September 22, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. See Hennessey, p. 43.
  3. a b c Memories of Klook, Mike Hennessy, Hannibal 2004 p. 43.
  4. Dizzy Gillespie reports that Teddy Hill called him Klook-a-Pug for the way he regularly planted a bomb and was eventually fired from his big band. As the musical director of Minton's Playhouse, he then brought Clarke into the house band.
  5. K. Clarke, cit. after Hennessey, p. 55.
  6. See Hennessey, p. 88.
  7. Hennessey gives the reason that Clarke did not feel like lugging around his instruments; see. P. 91.
  8. See Hennessey, p. 107.
  9. See Hennessey, p. 156.
  10. a b quotation from Hennessey, p. 156.
  11. Quoted from Hennessey, p. 234.