Let's Groove With The Ken Clark Organ Trio

WINDHAM, NH - This music journalist last caught up with native-Vermonter Ken Clark back in 2003, not long after he'd landed a record deal with Severn Record. Now, over a decade later and after recently releasing his latest CD, Dr. Organstein, Ken’s Hammond B-3 and guitar-fueled trio continues to perform throughout the Northeast, creating their unique brand of modern, funky-swing-jazz that’s reminiscent of old-school jazz masters such as Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton.

Article by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Ken Clark

Originally from South Hero, Vermont and now residing in Windham, New Hampshire, Clark was a prodigy of sorts, playing the organ from age five and by age 15, was performing organ at the neighborhood church… but at the same time getting into a lot of 60’s music. “I enjoy many types of music,” Clark stated in an exclusive Standing Room Only interview.

“I listen to and professionally play everything from R & B, blues and funk, to rock and classical music. I especially enjoy Herbie Hancock and George Benson, who cross over the lines from R & B to jazz.” Ken sites a wide range of early musical influences including Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, and McCoy Tyner.

Ken attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he would connect with his band mates, who have now been together for over two decades: guitarist Mike Mele, who had moved from New York to study with jazz greats Garrison Fewell and Charlie Banacos) and drummer Steve Chaggaris, who has degrees from both Berklee and the New England Conservatory of Music.

“Yes, after 20 to 25 years of playing together,” Ken said. “We still get along well and generally when we perform live, it’s usually the three of us…. and when we record, it’s always the three of us.” The trio’s close musical bond is clearly evident, as they create these deep and soulful grooves all full of funky jazz and R & B vibes.

The Ken Clark Trio recorded three CDs (self-titled, Eternal Funk, Mutual Respect) between 2002 and 2005, before Clark released God Has a Plan for You in 2012. “God Has a Plan for You was recorded under my name, however, Steve also participated in the recording simply because I love his playing and he was also the drummer at the church in which I had led a program.” Ken also released a solo CD in 2012, although considered simply a fun project that he never really intended to promote much.

Most recently (2013) The Trio released Dr. Organstein, their fourth official release as a trio featuring eight original tracks. “Dr. Organstein is all original songs and was recorded largely by me, although I had a lot help from Brian Doser and Will Yates at CDIA. I am very happy with the recording still, which is something I can't always say about my recordings.”

Other artists Clark has recorded and toured with include blues vocalist Michelle Wilson, Bernard Purdie, Melvin Sparks and David "Fathead" Newman. Ken is also currently working on a new acoustic group which will feature his accordion called The Acoustiphonics. To learn more about the Ken Clark Organ Trio and to order a CD, please visit Ken’s website at www.kenclark.net