Our monthly residency with Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH NYC is about to celebrate its 1-Year Anniversary this Friday 12/7/12 at DROM with special guests including Questlove, Casey Benjamin, Mark Kelley, Nate Smith, and more! We caught up with MdCL to bring us back to the beginning of CHURCH and take us on through where we’re heading with the event. Check out words from the man himself as well as comments from the artists who have been involved with CHURCH over the past year. In honor of this occasion, we are also premiering the title track from MdCL’s forthcoming Big Band album entitled ‘Take the Space Trane’ featuring his live performance with the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra. The album will be out in February 2013.
When I was living in London I used to do a residency at the Jazz Café there and it was called the Freesoul Sessions, which we’d do once a month. It was a fully improvised dance party basically. I loved doing it; it was always different guests. Then I moved to LA about four years ago and I wanted to on the one hand keep doing that, but I knew that it was definitely a London thing. Being in LA I had to do something fresh.
In the meantime, nia andrews was about to do her debut solo show and she asked me to play piano on it. I hadn’t played acoustic piano in like ten years or something. All my time in London I was running away from that. I wouldn’t do jazz gigs; I wouldn’t play piano. I was just like, “No, it’s all about club music and beats and stuff.” So when nia asked, I was saying to her like, “No, no I’ll play Rhodes or something.” But she wanted piano [laughs]. So she basically bullied me onto the piano. I loved it though. This is the instrument that I’ve played since I was four-years-old. I had turned my back on it and I was like the prodigal son coming back home with my tail between my legs. So that was definitely a turning point for me that helped me reconnect with the acoustic instrument and also the jazz side of what I grew up loving.
So the venue where nia did her show, which is no longer around, was called Angels. It was a 1930s supper club type of place that had a really dope vibe. After we did her show I thought it might be a cool place to do something in. We ended up being offered the first Sunday of the month every month at Angels. So it all pointed to church. It was actually nia again who christened it. She said it’s got to be church – angels, first Sunday; it’s got to be church. It’s in the tradition of the Black-American church and that uplifting spirit. That’s very much what we want to bring to the parties. Then at the same time, music is very much like a religion to me. It’s unseen, but it can be so omnipotent and really influential in how it touches people.
As far as the dynamic of the night goes, I also wanted to present my musical journey over a night. For me that was very much growing up playing jazz, getting really stuck on Native Tongues hip-hop in high school, and then jungle and drum & bass, some house music later on. And the whole thing came full circle. So to be able to present that in a way where we start off with the jazz club vibe and through the performance show the thread through music. Yes we can take it from a jazz club to a sweaty dance party. My life tells me that I can do that.
I’m so blessed to be able to do something that I want to do, so every night is my favorite! But if I was going to focus in on some really special moments, when we had Jean Grae guest, it was pretty special to me. Her dad, Abdullah Ibrahim, is a piano player who I’m really into. I arranged some of his music for the show and she didn’t know I was going to do that, so it was a nice surprise for her. She just really smashed it man. She was on the mic more than I thought she’d be and she kept smashing it and smashing it. That’s how I knew she was digging it and really wanted to be there. I love the spontaneity though. People sometimes come up who I don’t even know. So there are new favorites every time we do it.
I love people bringing their own vibe to the night. I’m not a control freak about it. The interesting thing about the second set we do is that there are no sketches and no preparation. Whoever is playing with me has to be willing to take that leap of faith and literally jump off the cliff with me. With some cats, that’s not really their thing. I’m always like, “Come on man, the water is fine down here!” So there is definitely a certain type of musician who is right for that. Mark Kelley, James Genus, Nate Smith, Eric Harland, Jamire Williams, all of those cats. They love music and they love playing something different.
Should I start with the realistic or the ridiculous [laughs]?
Common, Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Louie Vega, Jill Scott, Sheila E, Pino Palladino.
Fortunately with some of these people I have some sort of connection here or there.
“I love the way how Mark brings together facets of jazz, soul, electronica, house, hip-hop, and other styles so organically and soulfully. He’s really doing his thing beautifully and it is always such a pleasure to be a part.” - Miguel Atwood-Ferguson
“Mark’s CHURCH is definitely one of the best musical experiences I’ve been a part of. This guy is spreading the gospel of MUSIC.” – Eric Harland
“Mark de Clive-Lowe is a hugely talented musician with a boundless musical imagination. Playing with him and being a part of his musical vision as a part of CHURCH has been a privilege and I feel very lucky to have been a part of CHURCH NYC from the first show. Mark commands so much respect on and off the bandstand, and I’ve learned a great deal from working with him. He’s a one-of-a-kind talent.” – Nate Smith
“CHURCH is Spontaneous Jazzy Holy Ghost Funk Freedom!” - The Twilite Tone
“MdCL’s CHURCH is a music lover’s heaven… You get to hear top quality live music of many different vibes and styles… Music is forever!” - John “JR” Robinson
“Being invited to preform at CHURCH is like movement in sound brought to color. Exercises in vocal reproduction…recreation…
“CHURCH is an experience like no other! Putting like-minded creators in one setting, allowing them to be free on top of MdCL’s canvas…pure genius.” - Jamire Williams
“What an experience. The vibes, the energy, the music. Yes, CHURCH!” – Carlos Mena
Compiled by Eric Sandler (@ericsandler)