Davis High alumnus Chris Clark, a 2005 graduate, has released a jazz album titled “Cedar Wisely” on the Songlines label.
Clark grew up in Davis — his parents still live here — and attended West Davis Elementary, Willett Elementary, Emerson Junior High and Davis High. He played with multiple school ensembles and was a pianist with an Emerson production of “The Sound of Music.”
He also played saxophone with the Symphonic Band and Jazz Band at Davis High, played piano with the Davis High Concert Choir and served as piano accompanist as well as a vocalist with the Davis High Madrigals.
After graduating from high school in 2005, Clark went to Wales as the Madrigals’ accompanist when they performed at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 2006, where the group was honored as Best Chamber Choir.
Clark went on to graduate from the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he was honored as an outstanding undergraduate in jazz. Then he earned a master’s degree in jazz and improvisation at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he studied with Peter Epstein, who is featured as a saxophonist on “Cedar Wisely,” alongside Clark.
Another UNR professor, pianist David Ake, is also on the album. Bassist Zach Teran and drummer Jesus Vega — who were fellow students at UNR alongside Clark — complete the quintet.
While Clark plays tenor sax on the album, he acknowledges that “all but one of the tunes on ‘Cedar Wisely’ was composed on the piano. My usual process really just consists of improvising until I happen across a memorable melody or chord progression. There are many times I will spend several hours at the piano. … Once I find that initial idea that resonates with me, the rest of the tune tends to come to me fairly quickly. Honestly, sometimes it really does feel almost like the rest of the tune writes itself.”
Clark told The Enterprise that “All of the tunes are my own original compositions, with the exception of the two free improvisations. The album explores a wide variety of moods, incorporating styles ranging from more subdued chamber-jazz to aggressive avante-garde and even occasional tinges of pop and rock.”
Clark said when he was writing the tunes on “Cedar Wisely,” he was thinking of figures as diverse as Ornette Coleman, the legendary jazz artist who performed at the Mondavi Center a few years back; Eric Whitacre, the choral composer whose pieces have been sung by the Madrigals; and even Britney Spears (“Yes, I am hesitant to include her, but she has a handful of killer tunes,” Clark admitted).
“The most important thing for me is that I feel connected to the music and can perform it with a sense of commitment and sincerity.”
Clark, who lives in Boston, will be playing gigs in New York and elsewhere on the East Coast to support the new album. He hopes to play venues on the West Coast in July, and is working on setting up dates in Sacramento and in Reno, but hasn’t firmed up all of the details.
Readers can sample the tunes on “Cedar Wisely,” and also download the complete album, at Clark’s website, cclarkmusic.com. It is also available on amazon.com and iTunes.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.