Memories (and audio) of the Funky Drummer's versatility.
My memory of the great rhythm and blues drummer Clyde Stubblefield is a series of snapshot moments:
-Seeing him for the first time with Ben Sidran at the old Bunky's on Park Street in the '70s playing the jazzman's cool and erudite songs.
-Clyde powering Chris Plata's marvelous Tex-Mex/country music at The Harmony Bar with my friend Tom Dehlinger on pedal steel.
-A total wow moment at the old Cafe Montmartre when Stubblefield played with avant-garde master Roscoe Mitchell and his band of improvisers—and effortlessly drove the out-there music.
Was Clyde one of the great funk drummers of the universe? Oh, yeah. But he was versatile, too.
It was on March 29, 2009, at the Majestic Theatre that I saw Clyde at his best. His group opened for Karl Denson's Tiny Universe—an imposing jam band that featured the tenor sax star blowing long-and-hard solos against a ferocious rhythm section straight out of James Brown.
This was the perfect setting, in other words, for Clyde Stubblefield.
I missed Stubblefield's opening set. But he joined Denson's excellent young band to do a star turn on their opening number. It was a magical 14-minute workout.
When the jam ended, Denson's band of young African-American players gathered around Stubblefield to shake his hand and hug him. They were in the presence of their hero. "That was a big deal for me," a blissed and happy Denson told the cheering crowd. "If anybody recorded that, I need a copy. Throw that up on YouTube right away. You know what I'm saying?"
I don't have the video, but here—eight years later—is the audio of that perfect moment in the late Clyde Stubblefield's extraordinary life in American music.