Randal Clark, Stargazer Review
by Jeff Becker
Randal Clark has a new release called Stargazer. The contemporary jazz and concert saxophonist is based in Salt Lake City. Clark is extremely busy performing as a jazz and classical soloist and has appeared at numerous jazz festivals and concerts around the country as a featured performer. Joining Clark on Stargazer is Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, Paul Jackson Jr., Nick Kellie, Michael Thompson, David Mann, Oliver Leiber, Scott Kinsey, and many more. He will also be performing for a second year in a row at the Catalina Jazztrax Festival.
“Firebrand” is the opening selection, composed by keyboardist Jeff Lorber, that sets the mood and energy for the album with a dynamic melody with the band laying down a masterful fusion feel. Gary Novak’s drums and Jimmy Haslip’s bass combine to create a substantial rhythmic pad that the whole ensemble digs into to create the feel-good energy. Clark’s playing is immaculate and precise as he performs with emotion and a wonderful time feel. Lorber’s solo is melodic and playful as the ensemble grooves with direction and precision. Clark’s solo has powerful screams, intricate be-bop lines, and memorable motifs; he is a fun saxophonist to listen to and enjoy his power and creativity.
Clark composed many of the songs with Lorber, but for “Quiet Places,” he is the sole composer. Guitarist Steve Khan and pianist Alan Paqua provide a beautiful tapestry of harmonic support as Clark’s expressive saxophone playing is tender, technically sound, and builds throughout his solo. They say you can always tell a player’s true musicality by their ballad performance, and here, Clark shows he is melodic and expressive with the ability to build a powerful composition and solo.
Stargazer is another outstanding project for Clark. The various ensembles are all excellent musicians, and the compositions are expertly created for the styles and players and as vehicles for creative solos and expressions. If you enjoy contemporary jazz with a lot of feeling and fantastic playing, Stargazer is a must-have.