Bass Player and Composer Clark Sommers Announces New Album - Bass Magazine - The Future of Bass

Outside In Music is pleased to announce the March 6th release from Bassist and composer Clark Sommers’ Ba(SH) “Peninsula”, 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. The trio will be celebrating the release of this new album with two performances at Chicago’s The Green Mill on January 17th and 18th, along with special guest guitarist Scott Hesse.

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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.