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Clarence Penn, 'Rhythmic Intoxication' And Thelonious Monk

Courtesy of Clarence Penn

Faced with a guest's musical CV longer than his own arm, the wise radio host takes a tag-team approach to conversing with in-demand drummer, composer, bandleader, producer and teacherClarence Penn. In this edition of Musician's Spotlight, John Floridis and Montana drummer and percussionist Ed Stalling hold radio rhythm-camp with the versatile, highly respected, chops-rich Penn. 

Since his arrival in New York in 1991, a chronological short-list of top-flight musicians Clarence Penn has collaborated with includes Ellis and Wynton Marsalis (as a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Penn was a protégé of Ellis), Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay. His discography includes several hundred studio albums (including the Grammy-winning recordings 34th and Lex by Randy Brecker and Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue by Maria Schneider) representing a 360-spectrum of jazz expression, and he’s toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Penn has composed music for films and commercials, and produced tracks for numerous singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a “Ten Best of 1997” accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, Penn’s Landing.

“I think Clarence is a natural leader. He listens like a producer. He has clarity and vision. He hears everything—the bass, the high voices, the middle. He understands harmony. He understands lyrics. He has the will to solve problems and figure them out. He doesn’t stay traditional, but makes the music free and colorful. He understands that music is play. I’d play with him every day if I could.”—Luciana Souza 

(Broadcast: Musician's Spotlight, 6/29/21. Listen on the radio Tuesdays, 7 p.m., or via podcast.)

John Floridis, the host and producer of Musician's Spotlight, has been with Montana Public Radio since 1997. He has interviewed over 200 musicians during that time. He is also an independent recording and performing artist in his own right and a former registered music therapist.
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