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Wed, Nov 23


Merrimans' Playhouse

Clark Sommers Lens Project

The Clark Sommers Lens Project features Geof Bradfield and Nick Mazzarella on saxes, Scott Hesse on guitar and Neil Hemphill on drums.

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 Clark Sommers Lens Project
 Clark Sommers Lens Project

Time & Location

Nov 23, 2022, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM EST

Merrimans' Playhouse, 401 E Colfax Ave, Suite 135, South Bend, IN 46617, USA


About the Event

TICKETS are $10 General/$5 Student. Concert end time is only an estimate.

The Clark Sommers Lens Project features Geof Bradfield and Nick Mazzarella on saxes, Scott Hesse on guitar and Neil Hemphill on drums. Bassist Clark Sommers Lens Project will play music from a brand new album Intertwine released September 16 on Outside In Music. The music on this recording was composed in January-February 2021 and draws its inspiration from genre bending musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Sonny Sharrock, the Beatles, Jeff Parker, Joni Mitchell, Ralph Towner and Ali Farka Toure. A follow-up to Sommers’ 2020 release Peninsula, Intertwine captures Sommers’ transfusional compositional style in a new light. The album features guitar as the primary harmonic instrument with the addition of a second saxophone, filling out the trio on the Peninsula album. “The title intertwine comes from the idea that we need each other. This was made abundantly clear during the pandemic and I wanted to write the melodies based on how they could be perceived as having been improvised rather than composed in order to invoke extemporaneous, musical dialogue.”


Clark Sommers - bass

Geof Bradfield - saxophone

Nick Mazzarella - saxophone

Scott Hesse - guitar

Neil Hemphill - drums

Album Review: Intertwine

"Though bassist Clark Sommers leads the Chicago quintet behind this angular but appealing postbop outing—and it features an ace two-reed frontline of Geof Bradfield and Chris Madsen—none of these three gives Intertwine its essential color and character. That distinction goes to guitarist Matt Gold and drummer Dana Hall. The latter brings each tune its overall personality, the former its mood.

'Second Guess,' the third track, is an instructive example. One of a dozen Sommers originals, it is not a blues but immediately broadcasts blues-isms with its stop-time intro. It’s not just the rhythm itself, though: It’s Hall’s perfectly placed rolls and cymbal resonance that take it there. Gold’s savory comp under Madsen and Bradfield’s dueling tenor solos creates just the right seasoning. Then he throws the real spice into his own solo.

Other tracks present similar situations. Gold and Hall are the dark mystery on 'Ancient Voice'; the languor on 'Weeks & Weeks'; the playful soul on 'Nichols on the Quarter.' They have their individual moments too: Gold’s windswept wonder on “Also Tomorrow” is sublime, and Hall flexes his funk muscles on the title track. 'Intertwine' also features fine bass work by Sommers, more intriguing even than his three features ('Harbor,' 'Skin and Bone,' and 'Bass Intro'). Guess why?

The reedmen aren’t incidental here. Bradfield has a tremendous soprano feature on 'Silent Observer,' and it’s a thrill to hear his deep, throaty tone alternate with Madsen’s peppery one on 'Second Guess' or interlock with it on 'Invisible Arrow.' (There’s also great joy in the merger of Bradfield’s bass clarinet with Madsen’s tenor on 'Nichols on the Quarter.') Still, there was some ineluctable magic on these two days in June 2021 when Gold met Hall. It’s they who make the album such a fun listen." - October 25, 2022  – Micheal J. West, JazzTimes

Bassist, Composer and Educator, Clark Sommers has toured and performed extensively throughout the world. He has had the privilege of performing with Cedar Walton, Darrell Grant, Brian Blade, Ernie Watts, Bennie Maupin, Von Freeman, Ira Sullivan, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson, Peter Bernstein, Lin Haliday, Dana Hall, Jodie Christian, Bobby Broom, Jeff Parker, Ron Perrillo, Geof Bradfield, Michael Weiss, George Fludas, Kevin Mahogany, Eden Atwood, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, The Mighty Blue Kings and The Chicago Jazz Orchestra among others.

Clark completed his undergraduate degree in Jazz Studies and World Music at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with bass masters Charlie Haden and Darek Oles. While living in Los Angeles, Clark performed with Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, The Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra, Joe La Barbara and Larry Koonse. He continues to seek expansion of his craft by pursuing his musical studies with masters such as David Grossman of the New York Philharmonic, Mike Longo and Stefon Harris. He recently completed two residencies at the Brubeck Institute in Stockton California.

Clark is proud to be at home in the bass chair with vocalist Kurt Elling, with whom he tours the globe bringing jazz to everyone from Istanbul to the Canary Islands. Thus far he has been privileged to play on two GRAMMY nominated recordings with the band, one of which won the GRAMMY for best vocal jazz album in 2009.

When not on the road with Kurt Elling, Clark enjoys leading his own group “Ba(SH).” The group includes long time friends Dana Hall and Geof Bradfield. The groups first CD 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.

Clark can also be heard performing with Portland’s Darrell Grant in his “Territory” ensemble which includes Brian Blade, Joe Locke and Steve Wilson. Other groups that Clark performs regularly with include Dana Hall’s “Spring” and “Black Fire,” Geof Bradfield’s “African Flowers Ensemble” and “Melba,” Chicago Yestet, Dan Cray Trio, Spin Quartet and many other musicians.

"There’s a reason dark, woody-toned bassist Clark Sommers is a ubiquitous presence on the Chicago jazz scene—not only does he have impeccable timing and bulldozer force but he’s incredibly versatile. That last quality is a true hallmark of great Chicago musicians of the past, who often had to adapt to all manner of gigs to earn a living, whether playing in pickup bands for a touring R&B singer or playing polkas at a Polish function. Within the jazz microcosm he’s remarkable, bringing a bruising but ebullient rush to his trio Bash with saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall, or quicksilver agility in support of sophisticated singer Kurt Elling...." - Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Born in Houston, TX, saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield has shared the stage throughout North America, Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East with jazz luminaries such as Randy Weston, Carl Allen, Brian Blade, Rodney Whitaker, Etienne Charles, Joe Locke, and Orrin Evans. He also performs and records regularly with fellow Chicago artists including Dana Hall, Clark Sommers, Jeff Parker, Matt Ulery, Marquis Hill, and Ryan Cohan, to name a few. His work is featured on 50+ CDs, including seven albums as a leader that have garnered critical accolades from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Downbeat, the Chicago Tribune and NPR. Bradfield has been recognized in Downbeat Critics Polls as a Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist and Arranger. Birdhoused, recorded live at Chicago’s legendary Green Mill jazz club and released on Vancouver label Cellar Live in 2017, garnered 4 ½ stars from Downbeat. His most recent large scale work Yes, and…Music for Nine Improvisers (Delmark Records 2018) was commissioned by Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and features a nonet of top-flight Chicago and New York artists.

A committed educator, Bradfield is Professor of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University and has given master classes and lectures at the Brubeck Institute, the Manhattan School of Music, the Jazz Education Network conference, and numerous other national and international venues.

Saxophonist and composer Nick Mazzarella has been described as "continuing the approach taken by like-minded trailblazing altoists Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake, and Gary Bartz” by “seeking to embody the history of the music while pushing it forward into new realms” (All About Jazz). He has been a consistent presence in Chicago's music scene since the early 2000s where his continuous performance schedule has made an aesthetically unique contribution to the city’s rich culture of jazz and improvised music. His working trios and quintet have served as the primary vehicles for his endeavors as a composer and bandleader, while as a collaborator or sideman he has performed and recorded with such artists as Joshua Abrams, Geof Bradfield, Hamid Drake, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Dana Hall, Makaya McCraven, Rob Mazurek, Avreeayl Ra, and Tomeka Reid. Recordings of his original music have been released by Nessa, Clean Feed, Astral Spirits, International Anthem, and Out of Your Head, and he has performed throughout the United States and Europe, as well as in Africa and the Middle East.

In addition to his activities as a performing musician, Mazzarella has contributed to the vibrancy of the Chicago jazz community by working as a concert series presenter since 2008. He currently curates two ongoing concert series in Chicago—the Anagram Series, presented weekly at Elastic Arts in Avondale, and the Ratchet Series, presented quarterly at Cafe Mustache in Logan Square.

Guitarist Scott Hesse is a well-respected figure in the Chicago jazz community. Known especially for his harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness, Scott is equally at home in straight-ahead or avant garde settings. Since moving to Chicago in 2005, Scott has played at every major jazz venue in the area. He's also been featured in several jazz festivals throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada. As a leader, Scott has recorded four projects: Intuition (1998), The Flame Within the Fire (2000), Music Speaks (2008), and The Stillness of Motion (2015), and appears on more than fifty others as a sideman. Currently, Scott is involved in a number of groups including Dee Alexander's Evolution Ensemble, the Geof Bradfield Quartet, and the Victor Garcia Organ Group.  In addition to performing, Scott is an avid composer and music educator. Currently, Scott is on faculty at DePaul University, Eastern Illinois University, North Park University, and the Chicago Academy of the Arts. Scott holds a BA in Cultural Studies from Empire State College in New York and a master’s degree in Jazz Composition from DePaul University in Chicago.

Neil Hemphill is a Professional Jazz Drummer living in Chicago. Originally form Colorado Springs, CO he began playing drums at the age of 16 where he studied under Henrique De Almeida. After graduating from Fort Lewis College with a bachelors in Music Performance Neil moved do Denver where he played, toured and recorded with Jeff Jenkins, Greg Harris, Greg Gisbert, Ken Walker and many others. In 2015 He moved to Chicago where he has had the opportunity to play, record and tour with Bobby Broom, Richard Johnson, Sharel Cassity, Dennis Carroll, Geof Bradfield, Black Diamond, Greg Ward and many others.

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Philanthropic Services provided by grants from the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation, Stanley A. and Flora P. Clark Memorial Community Trust Foundation, and the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust, The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation, the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County's ArtsEverywhere initiative, and the Arts Project Support Grant and Arts Recovery Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission. Special concert event support provided by the Arts Midwest Grow, Invest, Gather (GIG) Fund grant (2022-2023 season).


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