“Jazz musicians enjoy themselves more than anyone listening to them does.” Tony Wilson, from 24 Hour Party People.
I have never been a Jazz purist. I prefer 1970s Contemporary Jazz and Jazz Funk to be-bop or avant-garde jazz. While I understand the craft and talent it takes to perform jazz, I will never pretend to anyone that I understand it completely. I am a fan of house music and early to mid-millennium broken beat, but I will never call myself an electronic music connoisseur.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an electronic music connoisseur or possess a thorough understanding of jazz to enjoy and appreciate Mark De Clive-Lowe + Friends. Through two sets of music, Mark led the five piece band through a journey of various forms of jazz, which was pure enough to keep elitists satisfied and held enough of a modern club spirit to hold the average listener’s attention.
Mark + Friends started their performance in the intimate jazz space on the third floor of a shopping and restaurant center in Little Tokyo with a long moody piano intro, which then shifted into a club jazz groove, reminiscent of mellower moments of the Japanese Club Jazz outfit, Soil and Pimp Sessions. Guest vocalist nia andrews sang a few lyrics to the groove, and then Mark introduced himself, nia, and the band. Mark announced that the next portioned of the set was an homage to Thelonious Monk, and the band moved into a classic 1960s jazz sound with bebop influences. From there, the band segue into 1970s soul jazz, and a more modern jazz sound which could be compared to Jazzanova without the samples. Kamasi Washington’s saxophone added a melodic soulful element to the quintet’s sound. The first set ended with a new composition, “Another Shade of Jade,” which had a modern groove, but with classic jazz piano.
During the break in between sets, De Clive-Lowe informed me that he stopped playing piano for ten years, most of which were spent in London working as a keyboardist/producer. We discussed some of his work with Bugz in the Attic and the whereabouts of Daz-I-Kue and Kaidi Tatham. He stated that, out of all the members of the collective, Afronaught was his favorite beatmaker.
Mark mentioned that the second set of music would have “more bump,” and stated that the space at the Blue Whale is really made for more acoustic music, and it was more challenging to add the club element to the music here. He said that the CHURCH events in New York and LA, which he performs with some of his band, DJs, and guest artists, are a combination of both jazz and dance music. “The first half is more of an education for the listener, and it is more on the jazz tip, but by the second half we are moving toward a dance floor vibe,” he said. We briefly discussed an outdoor concert by Mark + Friends in Pasadena about a week ago, and he told me that they had a great time, and could incorporate everything they wanted to into their set.
Mark introduced the second set to the audience, informing them that most of the songs are new compositions, and all the new songs are yet to be titled. The second set started with a heavier groove and more emphasis on the beat, with the drums and percussion playing a bigger role, while Mark’s piano, took on a percussive effect along with the bassline. Two songs, “Hooligans” and “Now Or Never,” featured nia, and the latter song closed out the set, which by midway, had a strong jazzy house feel, and was definitely as close as one can get to club jazz in a true school jazz club. The diverse crowd, ranging from hipsters to corporate types to a few house/electronic music heads, nodded their heads to the groove
Whether you are a fan of electronic club music or yearn for jazz elitism, or just appreciate good music – make sure to catch Mark De Clive-Lowe + Friends anytime they perform regardless of venue. Mark + Friends belong to a select group of talented artists and musicians who can make truly original, creative music that can be appreciated by almost anyone.