Alto/tenor/soprano saxman Randal Clark has released his debut album, Imaginary World, and he has brought out the big guns to see it through. With Clark are Jeff Lorber, David Mann, and Scott Kinsey on keyboards, Gerald Albright, Mononeon, and Jimmy Haslip on bass (Jimmy also produces the album), Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Branly, Sonny Emory, and Gary Novak on drums, Michael Thompson, Mike Miller, and Jon Herington on guitars, Randy Brecker on trumpet, and a host of others. And they came to play.
The 11 tracks were composed by Clark, Lorber, Lorber and Clark, Lorber and Haslip, Clark and Scott Kinsey, and David Mann. The compositions are what you would expect from Lorber and this corps of musicians turn it all up a notch or two. I mean, Brecker, Haslip, and Colaiuta on the same track? Yeah, it’s worth the price of admission. But don’t let the assembled stars distract you; Randal Clark has the goods and he brings it all out as the titans raise him up on their shoulders.
Trailblazer (Jeff Lorber, composer) opens the album and it comes out breathing fire. Lorber is featured on bass, keyboards, and guitar and Gary Novak works the drums to drive the motion ever forward. Clark’s solo is a monster. He steals your attention from the start. With Lorber, Michael Thompson and Mike Miller tear up the guitars, as Howard Summers, Alec Clark, Randal, and David Mann make for a hot and bold horn section.
Daybreak (Lorber, comp.) is performed by the quartet of Clark, Lorber, Haslip, and Colaiuta. It’s not the pulse-pounder that you might expect from these four but it is a gorgeous piece of fine movement and texture. The pulse-pounding comes in the next track, Living Underground (Lorber) from the same quartet. Love that rhythm section of Vinnie and Jimmy!
Guitarist Michael Thompson gets a cool feature in Discovery (Lorber/Clark). Randal’s alto sax soars finely while Haslip is pared with drummer Jimmy Branly in the rhythm section. Thompson and Randal make excellent trades and the whole song is spot-on.
The group is shuffled again for Boulevard East (David Mann, comp.) with Randal, Jon Herington on guitar, David Mann on keyboards, Gerald Albright on bass, and Sonny Emory on drums. The slight Funk underneath Randal and Herington pushes the song nicely.
Randal composed Looking Back and the quartet of Randal, Scott Kinsey on keyboards, Jimmy Haslip on bass, and Jimmy Branly on drums is introduced by Randal on solo piano and joined by a smooth bass from Haslip. Randal then switches to soprano saxophone, his second and final appearance on the album with that, and the reminiscence is beautiful.
Time’s Arrow (Lorber/Jimmy Haslip, composers) brings the smoke. Everybody comes to play with Randal, Randy Brecker, Lorber, Colaiuta, Haslip, David Mann on saxes and flute, and five more Clarks (Ashlyn, Alec, Zane, Jace, and Tara—all Randal’s children) on flute, trumpets, and alto saxes to set it all on fire. Haslip and Colaiuta crush it, Randal and Brecker, work their magic and the Clark Clan spices it all up. You’ve got to love the trading between Randal and Brecker. As Randy Brecker said, “Imaginary World is right in the pocket, smokin’ all the way!”
The title track, Imaginary World (Randal Clark/Scott Kinsey, composers) closes the album. The quartet of Randal, Scott Kinsey on keyboards, Haslip on bass, and Branly on drums is a tight group. Kinsey turns in splendid keyboards and Randal’s alto sax is just like we like it. It is a hot closer to an excellent album.
Imaginary World may be Randal Clark’s debut but it certainly doesn’t sound like it. With seasoned pros joining him, Clark closes 2021 with a bang. And then some.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.