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REVIEW - Clark Sommers Lens "Intertwine"

By Jeff Cebulski

In writing about the high level of jazz guitar recordings in 2022, I would be remiss not to include the exquisite album from Clark Sommers Lens, Intertwine. The main connection to my subject is the presence of rising guitarist Matt Gold (he of the lauded McCraven band). Gold serves as the harmonic center of the Lens’ foundation, including the irresistible tandem of bassist Sommers and drum sage Dana Hall.

It’s not at all surprising that a singular guitarist would be part of a Sommers’ recording; he has notably played with John McLean and Jeff Parker. Gold was a member of Sommers’ noted trio album, 2020’s Peninsula, which also included Hall.

High in harmony and low in histrionics, Intertwine delivers its title’s promise by including two of Chicago’s significant horn players, Geoff Bradfield and Chris Madsen, who engage and, ahem, intertwine throughout the album. The feel of this material hearkens back to Dave Holland’s more exotic works involving Steve Coleman and Chris Potter. Along the way, Sommers plays homage in his way to some meaningful influences. “James Marshall” refers to Jimi Hendrix; “Weeks and Weeks” remembers Donny Hathaway and his bassist Willie Weeks.

The “intertwining” of this album doesn’t just mean among players; several pieces conjoin various rhythms as well, and Sommers deftly places his solos in the order of selections, almost as heralds to changes of pace.

The seeming tightness and fluidity of these compositions belie the improvisational depth therein. In a published comment, Sommers stated that “The members of this group brought this music to life in a way that was beyond my imagination.” (

As for the music, the album’s opener “Also Tomorrow” begins with a percussive flourish from Hall before Sommers and Gold establish an Eastern-tinged modal theme upon which Bradfield and Madsen arrive to interpret Sommers’ hopeful, sanguine ideas of a more peaceful future. “James Marshall” drives a bit more, with Gold getting a chance to explore Hendrix’s “#9 chord.”

“Second Guess” swings, with Madsen getting the first solo as Gold comps while Sommers and Hall push the proceedings to one of the album’s most energetic moments. “Harbor,” a lyrical Sommers solo, bridges to “Ancient Voices,” where the Eastern flavor of some compositions is most evident. The steady melding of guitar and horns creates a pleasant, melodic hearkening to some more peaceful time, with a kind of chambered commentary interval from the Lens. In a more spirited fashion, the exotic ambiance continues in the ironically titled “Silent Observer,” where Hall dances his way around the kit accompanied by Bradfield’s soprano before the group moves within a Latino vein before a Madsen post bop cadenza and a Gold pensive understatement.

After an extended bass solo, “Skin and Bone,” the soulful “Weeks and Weeks” inserts a burning ballad into the assortment, ala Hathaway, characterized by chiming horns and slowly churning drumming.

Sommers’ walking bass leads “Invisible Arrow,” a bright stroll interrupted by an intricate musing from Madsen and Gold, while Sommers and Hall exercise some insistent restraint, the album’s most notable display of the partnership between the bassist leader and his percussive friend. Sommers’ colloquial counterpoint amidst Gold’s lovely solo is another high point. All this is intertwining of the highest order.

Following another bass intro, “Nichols On The Quarter” seems to derive its playful energy from something like Stevie Wonder-ish pop. Here, Bradfield gets to express himself on a swinging bass clarinet solo. This, and other such moments when the Lens center supports a horn solo, typifies the harmonious relationship among its members. Gold again answers the horn statement with an equally loquacious statement.

The title piece, like the opener, starts with Hall, is established by Sommers and Gold, and embellished upon by the horns. Notice Sommers’ delicate strumming that accompanies the upper scale chorus. The “intertwining” is fascinating to behold as the three linchpins co-exist in a quietly rendered tone zone, terrifically recorded for our benefit. Bradfield and Madsen get to take off from there with their own tag team flourish.

In another review, I stated I would listen to anything where Sommers and Hall played together; now I will add Gold to the mix. By including the sax statesmen Bradfield and Madsen, this record succeeds in “plaiting the [current] generation” (to steal a phrase from poet Cladys Cardiff’s “Combing”) of cream-of-the-crop Chicago artists.

Clark Sommers Lens. Intertwine. Outside in Music, 2022.

Listen & Purchase:


Clark Sommers, bass and compositions

Matt Gold, guitar

Dana Hall, drums

Geoff Bradfield, saxes and bass clarinet

Chris Madsen, tenor sax


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