Mongo Santamaria, Ray Baretto, Candido all Latin artists who’ve lead their bands into “A” rooms (i.e., Blue Note, Village Gate, Carnegie Hall) throughout New York City by use of the percussion, trap drum, notwithstanding.
His name is Chief Baba Neil Clarke, an African-American artist, a percussionist for 50 years; his last 30 spent with late noted pianist Randy Weston. Having served 15 years with Harry Belafonte obviously inspired Clarke to bank on the percussion as his axe pointing to a career in music.
Clarke played Iridium in April to a packed house, and devoted the stage to Westonism, paying homage to Randy Weston. The opportunity is rare – Clarke to lead with his instrument accompanied by steel pan, vibraphone and bass. “Randy gave me license, Clarke said smiling…he allowed me virtuosity to engage in spontaneous composition. I owe him this date.” It was apparent on that date, Neil wanted to be there and his audience did too!
Phone calls, word of mouth, friends and colleagues, Basir, Kim, Beareather, Amy, Iridium regulars found their way on a rainy night in Times Square to the venues new location. “I lost my way…was heading to the old location near Lincoln Center where Randy played years ago,” Clarke lamented.
Mongo’s and Randy’s birthdays are the same week, forcing Neil to make a decision. Bring eight pieces and tribute Mongo or half that and cite Randy. The venue spoke and Westonism was staged. The Iridium date was well deserved and a well received dream, goal and gig.