While often referred to as the “Tony Williams of funk,” Mike Clark considers jazz his first love. He gained worldwide recognition as one of America’s foremost jazz and funk drummers while playing with Herbie Hancock in the early seventies. His incisive playing on Hancock’s “Actual Proof” garnered him an international cult following and influenced generations of drummers.
Mike has performed with such well-known jazz greats as Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, Chet Baker, John Scofield, Nicholas Payton, Tony Bennett, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Eddie Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Vince Guaraldi, Woody Shaw, Donald Harrison, Albert King, Larry Coryell, Mike Wolff, Wallace Roney, Billy Childs, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Chris Potter, Bobby McFerrin, Nat Adderly, Oscar Brown Jr., and Gil Evans and his Orchestra.
Born in Sacramento, CA, Mike traveled around the country with his father, a former drummer himself and a union man for the railroad. His dad had a great appreciation for jazz and blues music, and Mike absorbed the music of America while riding the rails. He credits this exposure as forming the foundation for his ability to synthesize many different regional styles. From age 4, he was a prodigy, sitting in--and getting “house” --- with bands in Texas and New Orleans. And by the time he reached his early twenties he was known as one of the founders of the distinctive East Bay Sound coming out of Oakland, California.
During the late sixties, he led his own jazz organ trio, until he met Hancock in 1973. With Hancock, Mike set the rhythms for the acclaimed group, The Headhunters. Afterwards, he did a two-year stint with Brand X, the British jazz/rock fusion band founded by Phil Collins. With them he recorded ”Do They Hurt?” and “Product.”
By 2000 Mike made a foray into the popular jam band scene. His group Prescription Renewal pulled together cross-generational talents, such as Charlie Hunter, Fred Wesley, Skerik, Robert Walter, and DJ Logic, and featured special guests such as Donald Harrison, George Porter Jr. of The Meters, Les Claypool, Larry Goldings and fellow Headhunters alumni Bill Summers. He also toured with The Roots Funk All Stars.
Along with James Brown's drummer Clyde Stubblefield, Mike's beats with The Headhunters (most notably "God Make Me Funky") include some of the most sampled in hip hop. Featured in Downbeat, Musician, International Musician & Recording World, Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Guitar Player, Jazz Is and numerous jazz history and method books, Mike is a popular and busy clinician. His book Funk Drumming: Innovative Grooves & Advanced Concepts was published in 2012 by Hal Leonard.
As a bandleader, all of Mike’s work has been critically acclaimed. 2009’s “Blueprints of Jazz” was considered one of the top jazz releases of the last ten years by Downbeat magazine. 2011’s “Carnival of Soul, got five stars in Downbeat, as did “The Funk Stops Here.” His 1989 release “Give The Drummer Some” earned a rare four and a half stars in Downbeat. A 2001 solo CD, “Actual Proof,” met with critical acclaim, as did the 2003 acoustic jazz release, “Summertime,” featuring Chris Potter and Billy Childs, which spent weeks in the top ten jazz charts.
Recently Mike has been co-leading The Headhunters,’ with original founding member Bill Summers. 2012 saw a new Headhunters' release, “Platinum.” which featured guest turns by Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, and Killah Priest.
Along with drum legend Lenny White (Return to Forever), Mike is co-leading Nu Brew, a double drummer experience in new music. He appears with Tower of Power's organist Chester Thompson's on "Mixology." He has also produced three releases for the spoken word prophet Tony Adamo, including ”Miles of Blu" with Tower of Power’s Doc Krupka, bass legend Paul Jackson, and Michael Wolff.
Mike endorses DW Drums, Istanbul Cymbals, Evans Drum heads, and Innovation Percussion drumsticks. He lives in New York City.