Randal Clark, Stargazer Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Randal Clark has released his follow-up to the 2021 release of Imaginary World with his album titled Stargazer. The Salt Lake City-based alto saxophonist presents his exciting mix of fusion, jazz, and smooth jazz with various ensembles comprised of fusion virtuosos Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, Paul Jackson Jr., Nick Kellie, Michael Thompson, David Mann, Oliver Leiber, and Scott Kinsey. Clark delivered a well-paced set of eleven songs that will be a welcome addition to any fusion and/or smooth jazz music fan’s catalog.
Clark’s lush tone leads us through an exceptionally satisfying original by Lorber called “Firebrand.” Clark’s expression and articulation have hard-bop overtones that give energy and motion to his melodic ideas in his solo fills. Haslip’s bass and Novak’s drums present the funk-infused rhythmic setting with precision and feeling. The inventiveness of the song form offers multiple sections with varying degrees of intensity.
The riff-based “Dinosaur” features the trumpet playing of Randy Brecker through this Kinsey original. Haslip big bass sound anchors the groove as Clark cuts up with energy and personality during his solo. Brecker delivers a robust performance during the song, reminding us how great the Brecker Brothers were, R.I.P. Michael. The multiple horn parts and interesting keyboard sounds add texture and keep the music evolving.
Randal Clark and company prove that fusion paired with smooth jazz can be an intricate and pleasurable combination of groove, emotions, and virtuosity. Stargazer is yet another fine album by Clark; keep’em coming! Each selection is performed with the elegance that is indicative of these fusion masters’ abilities and excellent discretion in balancing virtuosity with melodic and rhythmic clarity.