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Geoff Clapp Taps Into the Rhythm of Redemption

Geoff Clapp
Julie Verlinden Photography

Drummer and bandleader Geoff Clapp's new CD release, Redeemed, is the sound of reclamation, self reflection and a resultant gratitude. It represents the leader's triumph over addiction, and is an effort to inspire and reach others who may be dealing with the same struggles.

WBGO's Let Me Tell You 'Bout It w/Geoff Clapp

"When you get out of the ditch...you have to rest and redeem your spirit, Clapp says. "Then you look at yourself and say, 'What have I been running from?'"

The sound of reckoning, spiritual awakening and thankfulness is certainly common in the works of musicians such as John and Alice Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Roy Brooks. Their sound, while multifaceted, could often be expressed through fiery, driving rhythms and often resulted in an intense wall of sound. As a drummer and timekeeper, Clapp is a linear improviser with a steady forward-moving pulse. No stranger to intensity and fervent swing, Clapp has demonstrated these attributes as a key member of rhythm sections with bandleaders including Ellis Marsalis, Eric Reed, Terence Blanchard and Charlie Hunter.

On Redeemed, however, Clapp leads his bandmates through six songs that largely express themselves dynamically from quiet to moderately loud. This allows a through-line of peace to be expressed in the music, suggesting vigilance and an end to struggle — realized on tunes like drummer James Black's "Little Boy Man," a re-working of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," and especially Clapp's sole original, "Redeemed." With longtime friends and stellar collaborators pianist Peter Martin and bassist Reuben Rogers, along with special guest Nicholas Payton, Clapp enlists a close cadre of collaborators that are familiar with his story as well as his rhythmic arsenal and approach to improvisation.

"Everybody is dealing with something, and I'm hoping that the record will speak to the fact that there is hope," Clapp said. "You are worthy of love and letting your friends love you."

In our chat, Clapp discusses his foundational time in New Orleans with leading drummers Shannon Powell and Herlin Riley; his experiences moving to New York and learning lessons as a touring and working drummer; and some key brush techniques that contribute to his signature sound.

Redeemed is available now through Geoff Clapp's website.

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.