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CD Review: Clark Sommers “Peninsula”

By Hrayr Attarian

Clark Sommers Peninsula

Clark Sommers – Bass

Geof Bradfield – Saxophone

Dana Hall – Drums

Chicago-area native Clark Sommers is a superbly talented and much in-demand bassist with an elegant style. He has distilled the influences of the greats with whom he trained into his unique and sophisticated sound. Despite his busy schedule with various ensembles Sommers also pens intriguing compositions, seven of which comprise his second release as a bandleader, the provocative and captivating Peninsula.

As with his debut, this album features saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall. This collaborative trio, known as Ba(SH), interprets the original music with dynamism and seamless synergy. The opener is the darkly rumbling “High Tide” with thumping bass lines and restless drum vamps. Bradfield contributes warm and eloquent phrases that enhance the tension of the already expectant mood. The taut and soulful overlap of simultaneous and individual “monologues” brims with intelligent spontaneity.

This fervent momentum is maintained throughout as the tracks range from the mellifluous and melancholic to the energetic and angular. On “The Forgotten” Bradfield takes center stage with a lyrical and expressive improvisation that lilts to the waltzing cadence of his bandmates. The tune’s forlorn ambience contrasts well with the assertive wit of “Goes Around.” The group’s delightfully dissonant performance is both stimulating and passionate. In addition to Bradfield’s tenor, Hall unleashes a complex polyrhythmic solo over Sommers’ agile vamps.

Sommers showcases his instrumental prowess on the cinematic and bittersweet “Hope Dances.” His lithe and eloquent extemporization emerges out of the contemplative atmosphere and follows Bradfield’s poetic, acerbic soliloquy. Hall drives the piece with his thunderous beats and vibrant cymbal crashes.

The ideas on Peninsula are an extension of Sommers’ first record, Ba(SH) (Origin, 2013); here, they are crystallized and further matured. Additionally, Sommers wrote the entire work—endowing it with an engaging cohesiveness. This makes it necessary to listen to it in one sitting for a fuller appreciation of its nuances and the bassist’s artistry.

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