Jazz bassist Clark Sommers, “Possessed of a massive, tensile sound,” releases Feast Ephemera

Jazz bassist Clark Sommers, “Possessed of a massive, tensile sound,” releases Feast Ephemera

Feast Ephemera features a Who’s Who on The Chicago Scene: Clark Sommers-compositions/arrangements & bass, Dana Hall-drums, Nick Mazzarella-alto saxophone, Geof Bradfield-bass clarinet, soprano & tenor saxophones, Chris Madsen tenor saxophone, John Wojciechowski-C & alto flutes and alto saxophone, Tito Carrillo, Russ Johnson-trumpet, Joel Adams, Andy Baker-trombone, Stu Mindeman-piano/keyboards, Scott Hesse-guitar.

First call Chicago bassist, Clark Sommers, perhaps best known for his long, and ongoing, tenure with Kurt Elling, has an enviable CV, with appearances on stage and in studio with The Chicago Yestet, Jeff Parker, Matt Gold, Darrell Grant, Joe Locke, Gary Versace and many others.

He admires the power and sweep of the classic big bands led by Ellington and Basie – who wouldn’t? – and the unsurpassed arrangements that Nelson Riddle wrote for the likes of Fitzgerald and Sinatra; he just didn’t see those as a model for himself.

The pandemic made virtual hermits of almost everyone, and especially those whose lives and work revolved around real-time interplay and synergistic creativity – you know, musicians. Cut off from audiences and colleagues, going a bit stir-crazy at home, Sommers channeled his energy and frustration into his new avocation.

He began to write the pieces heard on Feast Ephemera – pieces that quickly gained a significance beyond the music itself.

Over time and through diligent hard work, Sommers found himself with a suite of music, with each composition a chapter in this story, told from the heart by Sommers through rhythm, harmony, melody, counterpoint, and many other ingredients that make music like this such a joyful, life-affirming pleasure to listen to.

The music on Feast Ephemera reflects on Sommers’ life over the past two decades, and the love, camaraderie and solidarity that he shares with his family in music (of which, eleven are featured on this album).

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Sommers wanted to capture the memories and the experiences that sustained him during the pandemic’s amorphous twilight. To do that, he sought to convey the personalities of the musicians – not only by giving each of them solo space, but also by utilizing their unique artistic personae within the ensemble writing.

Sommers takes no solos on this album. He didn’t have to; he expresses himself throughout the work. Feast Ephemera is rigorously imagined, handsomely arranged, superbly realized – all the things that make it a long-lasting feast for the ears. Ultimately, it’s about community: these specific musicians, at a specific time and in our lives, that Clark Sommers gets to lead and enjoy from the back of the bandstand.


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