Acclaimed Columbus vocalist and instrumentalist Phil Clark (photo by Stephen Pariser) is well-known in many different circles in Columbus and beyond for his talents. He will be drawing from some of his earliest inspirations for the Phil Clark Sunday Gospel Showcase on Sunday, June 25th, at 2pm at Notes. Doors open at 1pm – click here for tickets and more details. He has assembled an all-star lineup of great musicians to bring the gospel spirit of Bishop Walter Hawkins and The Reverend Andrae Crouch to this basement hot spot on the first Sunday afternoon of summer. Clark was kind enough to answer my questions about the show and his gospel influences – keep reading to learn more.
How did this Gospel Showcase come together? What inspired you to put on this show?
Phil Clark (PC): Walter Hawkins and Andrae Crouch were a huge inspiration to me as a musician growing up in church. Like so many other musicians, I had a steady diet of these artists. The indescribable feeling of these worship songs is familiar to all of us, but I wanted to take that beyond the church pews, and to share this music with those who may have never experienced it.
This all came together because of The Columbus Jazz Orchestra (thank you, Byron Stripling!). Bobby Floyd and I had spoken about doing something together and we kicked around doing a gospel performance. I ran into Dwight Bailey at Guitar Center and mentioned it to him. He said, “YES!” I mentioned it to Quan Howell at the spring CJO performances (where we shared the stage with Carmen Bradford and Dave Powers), and he said “YES!” I ran into Reggie Jackson leaving a rehearsal for that very show, at the Jazz Academy at the Lincoln Theatre, and he said “YES!” I asked Quan for a killer alto singer and he recommended Camille Betton, who said “YES!” I called Jeff Passifiume to join us on guitar and he said “YES!” too! Now we are all ready to sing and play these songs “from the bottom of our hearts…to the depths of our souls.”
Is this a one-time show, or are there plans or possibilities for future installments of the Showcase?
PC: This may be a ONE TIME SHOW!!! DON’T MISS IT!!! I actually do plan to do future installments, but it is nothing short of a miracle that every one of these phenomenal musicians were available! Any future show may include some different personnel, due simply to the busy schedules of those joining this performance.
What can you tell us about the musicians you have lined up for this performance?
PC: Certainly all Columbus jazz and gospel fans know the part that Bobby Floyd plays in the Columbus jazz as well as gospel heritage. Reggie Jackson is a stellar drummer and member of The Bobby Floyd Trio. Dwight Bailey has played bass with gospel greats since he was a teenager, and has played on famous stages around the world, backing artists including Arturo Sandoval and Dr. John. Quan Howell, Columbus’ own gospel great, I couldn’t wait to ask him to participate in this after meeting and singing with him at the April CJO shows. I was later blown away when I first rehearsed with his friend Camille Betton. Veteran, amazing guitarist Jeff Passifiume rounds out the band; I’ve been working with him in other bands for the past year or so, and while his extensive background does not include much gospel work, his innovative and interesting lead guitar work shines in these songs, trust me!
For local jazz fans who may be more familiar with your Frank Sinatra-styled appearances in town, how would you describe the program you have designed for this Showcase?
PC: When I sing jazz standards they are about human emotions that are common to everyone who has experienced love, life and pain. Those are the songs of “terra firma.” The songs that I have collected for this gospel performance are songs of the spirit, and can move every listener in a much deeper way. Each and every one is a song that I have found myself singing in the high times and the low, and they have helped me out of the low, and made the highs even higher.
The music of Walter Hawkins and Andrae Crouch holds to the standards of jazz and provided an immediate attraction for musicians of all styles, but most certainly those of us who love jazz. Also, jazz fans appreciate the genre in part for its amazing ability to conjure up emotions. Gospel has strong roots in jazz, a fact that musicians such as John Coltrane understood; clearly it shines through his work. My main goal for this performance is to remind many of just how wonderful this music is, as well as introduce it to those who have missed out…until now.
What are some of your favorite gospel or gospel jazz recordings?
PC: If you come to Notes you can hear most of my very favorite songs which are any recording that you can pick up from Walter Hawkins or Andrae Crouch. I was never disappointed and always looked forward to a new LP. One of the songs we are doing that always struck me was “Thank You” by Walter Hawkins and The Love Center Choir (great name). The lyrics remind us all, in a personal, soulful way, how thankful we should be for our many blessings. I always found myself singing along.
Here is a short list of my favorite gospel singers and performers, beyond Andrae Crouch and Walter Hawkins:
James Cleveland, Jessie Dixon, The Holmes Brothers, Rev. James Moore, The Clark Sisters, The Winans, Russ Taff, Koinonia, Gary Paxton, The Imperials, The Stamps, 5 Blind Boys, The Staple Singers…there is an endless list of great music!
If people can’t attend your show Sunday, where else can they see you play in the near future?
PC: I play sax and provide vocals with The HooDoo Soul Band each Sunday at the Rumba Cafe. Phil Clark and The Soul play regularly at Natalie’s, and also at Mudflats in Galena. I play piano and sing lead vocals with The Apostles. I do jazz trio and quartet work pretty regularly too, singing jazz standards and playing sax and now and then, some piano. I’m starting to do some solo gigs as well, singing and playing guitar and piano. This summer I am again privileged to perform as a guest vocalist with the CJO, on August 11 for their “Jazzoo” performance. You can find all my gigs posted on my Facebook page: Phillip Maxwell Clark.