Rob Clearfield | WMUK

Rob Clearfield

Gulnara Khamatova

The original music and improvisations of both Rob Clearfield and alto saxophonist Caroline Davis is the starting point for the jazz quartet Persona, which is bringing its new album, Anthems, on tour to Western Michigan University at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, Nov 12 in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Joining them on the album, and on tour, are bassist Sam Weber and drummer Jay Sawyer, both Western Michigan University jazz alumni. All four Persona members and WMU professor of jazz drums Keith Hall joined Cara Lieurance in the studio to talk about their work and listen to some of the new tracks.


image provided by the artist

The "Rob Clearfield sound" is hard to pin down. A natural improviser, he's able to create music with ideas like, "I think I'll start in D major." At the piano in WMUK's Takeda Studio, he tells Keith Hall about his musical development, which began at home with his mother, a classically-trained pianist/church organist. Another step forward came when she brought home a battered guitar, inspiring him to get the hang of popular music styles, which he then transferred back to the keyboard. Jazz became his dominant pursuit when his teacher randomly grabbed an album to play at the end of class. It was Wayne Shorter's "Witch Hunt," from Speak No Evil.

In the studio with Keith Hall, Clearfield begins with a piece he makes up on the spot. Then, he and Hall talk about his process of writing and improvising, centered around his newest collection of tunes, newly recorded on the album Wherever You're Starting From.