The idea of doing a 'jazz' album has been brewing for a while. The dense, modal harmonies and rhythmic excitement of so much of '60's and '70's improvised music - In A Silent Way, Jack Johnson, Atlantis, Impressions, Bitches Brew, and much more - has always been a huge influence on me - it's there subliminally or overtly in all the Commotions work and probably in every recording that I've been a part of.
However it all really crystallized during a course of study with Gary Burton at Berklee College of Music. Gary has been somewhat of a hero of mine since I was 15 and taking guitar lessons in Glasgow. My teacher played me Hank Garland's Jazz Winds In A New Direction which featured a 17 year old Gary Burton and I was blown away by both Gary's vibes playing (I mean who can play like that at 17?) and Hank Garland's guitar playing. Gary's playing also crops up on so many of the ECM recordings I love from the 70’s, so when I noticed that he was teaching a course on improvisation at Berklee, and the time was right for me, I had to enrol. That course, by the way, written and taught by Gary Burton, is one I recommend to anyone with an interest in improvisation, regardless of genre.
Of the songs, Strangelove & Jarman's Garden - are radical remixes of the versions on the Sleepers album, with amongst other changes, all the guitars replaced. Black Rock is a tune written by bassist, Alisdair Jones. This version was recorded here in my studio in July 2015. Second Story Sunlight & All The Pretty Horses have been recorded before but these are very much updated versions. The other tracks are compositions that I've loved for many years; Naima - John Coltrane's beautiful ballad; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat - Mingus's haunting and harmonically rich blues; Follow Your Heart - a long-time favourite from John McLaughlin's seminal 1969 album, Extrapolation; Sweet Rain - Mike Gibb's deceptive blues and finally, Bill Frisell's Strange Meeting - an early piece by an artist better known for his revolutionary guitar playing but who is also, for me, one of the best composers currently working.
released May 18, 2016
Song List - with personnel where applicable:
Naima (drums Ambrose Pottie)
Second Story Sunlight
Strangelove (drums Ambrose Pottie, bass - Alisdair Jones)
Follow Your Heart
Black Rock (drums Ambrose Pottie, bass - Alisdair Jones)
Jarman's Garden (drums Ambrose Pottie, bass - Alisdair Jones)
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (drums Ambrose Pottie)
All The Pretty Horses
Compositions Neil Clark except: Strange Meeting by Bill Frisell; Naima - by John Coltrane; Strangelove - by Clark/Jones/Pottie; Follow Your Heart - by John McLaughlin; Black Rock - by Alisdair Jones; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat - by Charles Mingus; Sweet Rain by Mike Gibbs.
Cover credits: Photographs; Olancha, California and coyote, Death Valley - Aidan Clark. Layout and collage; NC.
Thanks to the following who helped with their time and skills, encouragement, and invaluable feedback over the months that these recordings were taking shape: Ambrose Pottie, Alisdair Jones, Aidan Clark, Michele Mondoux, Lloyd Cole, Terry Odette, Dougie Kelso, Patricia Pearson, Ragnar Kennerland, Mollie McLean Staffa, Caspar Wijers, Robin Billinton, and Rob Corkum.