Yet, Clarke has developed a style of his own after years of backing groups like Mary Wells, Sherry Winston and Walter Duda.... a style that involves some experimentation with time signatures, as in 7/4 on "Another Place In Time," but that maintains its appeal for a broad and energized audience. Clarke’s emphasis upon funk creating listener involvement belies the complexity of some of his work, particularly in his roles as bass guitarist, keyboardist, drummer and programmer, all wrapped up in one. But after two decades as a bass player and considering his involvement as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, Clarke has gone beyond mere technique and gadgetry to merge all of the available elements for a total expression of overbrimming joy.
Or, in other words, Clarke has found a capacity that allows him to transmit his feelings from his soul into that of his listeners.
Clarke finds support from his friends recorded on his first CD, saxophonist Ken Gioffre and guitarist Jonathon DuBose. Gioffre is especially effective on "Eccentric Dancer," wherein, after Clarke’s extended soundscape of an introduction, the sax takes over, adding a cry and a wail above the choppiness of the 10/4 rhythm. And on "Frown," DuBose’s interjections within Clarke’s shout chorus provide a voice, relaxed and still urgent, that remains with the listener.
Yes, Sweet Surroundings shakes up the "smooth jazz" notion a little bit by making the groove paramount and by claiming the listener’s attention, rather than providing solely comfort.