New York, New York, USA

She Rocks Her Guyanese Heritage: Kim A. Clarke – Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Bassist

Kim A. Clark – Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Bassist
Kim A. Clarke – Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Bassist

New York-based Kim A. Clarke is an internationally acclaimed multifaceted bassist, composer and educator, who counts her father, Henry Clarke, and her late Guyanese-born grandfather, trombonist/bassist Henry “Hy” Clarke, Sr., as her personal jazz heroes.”  Kim plays  the Acoustic Bass, Electric Upright and four and five-stringed Electric Bass Guitar. Her electric Bass playing has been described as soulful, funky, rich & tight.

For more than 20 years Kim has performed with some of the world’s leading jazz musicians around the globe. Her heritage, education and training have also contributed to her success.

When Kim was two years old her grandfather encouraged her to pluck the strings of his upright string bass.   Kim’s first grade teacher also spotted her vocal talent, but her interest was string instruments. Kim’s first bass guitar cost her $15 and it was while she was a freshman at Michigan State University that she taught herself to play the guitar by ear.

At the end of her freshman year Kim transferred to Bennett College, Greensborough, North Carolina, where she met musicians who told her about the Jazzmobile Program in New York. At the end of her second year she transferred to City College, New York, so she could take music classes and access the training opportunities provided by the Jazzmobile Program. Through a series of scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts she was able to study with Ron Carter, Lyle Atkinson, and Barry Harris at the Jazzmobile Program. She later attended and still studies with jazz master Dr Barry Harris.

While at City College, Kim bought an acoustic bass from a fellow student. This bass, a turn-of-the-century German flat-back bass was one of the first used in a radio recording in the United States. Kim holds B.A’s in Communications and Music from City College and Long Island University, respectively, and is a 3-time recipient of the coveted NEA Jazz Study Fellowship.

2Bassy, Kim A. Clark
2Bassy, Kim A. Clarke

Kim’s first international tour experience was to Guyana in 1975 with the National Black Theatre of Harlem’s show Soul Journey into Truth.  Soon thereafter, she joined the Yusef Lateef Quartet for a two-month tour of the West Coast. She later became the house bassist for the Jazz Cultural Theater’s “Art Blakey Breakfast Jam” where she was performed with a large number of jazz notables such as Philly Joe Jones, Eddie Harris, Tommy Flanagan, C Sharpe, Joe Jones Jr., Clifford Barbaro, Charlie Rouse, Walter Davis, and then up and coming artists such as Rodney Kendrick, Kuni Mikami, Craig Haynes and Vince Herring. She also was the house bassist in NYC and Brooklyn Jazz Clubs notably The Blue Note and Pumpkins.

Throughout her career, Kim has had the opportunity to work with other leading names in the jazz world. Among them are sax men Joe Henderson, George Braith, Charles Davis, Jimmy Heath and Branford Marsalis; trumpeter Lester Bowie; Arvell Shaw – Louis Armstrong’s bass player; drummers Art Blakey and Louis Hayes; pianists Dr Billy Taylor, Gilly Coggins, Bertha Hope, Geri Allen, Danny Mixon, Enos Payne (Guyanese educator), George Gruntz and Rachel Z; vibraphonists Lionel Hampton and Bryan Carrott; gospels Edwin Hawkins, Pop Stars: Cindy Lauper, Robert Palmer; bluesman Screamin Jay Hawkins; vocalists Teri Thornton, Sheila Jordan, Leon Thomas, and Andy Bey; poets Trazana Beverly, Ntozake Shange and Sekou Sundiata. She has also performed with tap dancers Tina Pratt, Roxanne Butterfly and recorded with and has arranger’s credits on a song written by Rapper/Actress/Singer Queen Latifah.

In addition to being a jazz musician, Kim is an accomplished funk bassist, and for many years she was the bass player for the innovative jazz/funk/fusion band Defunkt.  She has recorded 11 albums with the band.

Kim’s press exposure includes 1990 entry in the Who’s Who In the Performing Arts,, Bass Player Magazine, Guitar Player Magazine, Germany’s Jazzdimensions Online Magazine, a number of European magazines and several books on Women in Jazz. She also was photographed in the late 1980’s historic Jazz Musicians on the Roof Project and was one of the Michael Locker’s New York Jazz Musicians Project in 2002.

Rocking the Bass, Kim Clark
Rocking the Bass, Kim Clarke

Kim is actively engaged in paying homage to the women of jazz and nurturing the current and emerging generation. She is particularly proud of the work with the Kit McClure Big Band (Kim has been a member since 1986) to honour the International Sweethearts of Rhythm; this band has recreated and released the album The Sweethearts Project. She is also actively engaged with a group of female musicians that she describes as the “notables on the other end of the link.” These include “alto saxophonists Tia Fuller and Lakecia Benjamin, and fiery drummer Kim Thompson who is currently performing with master Jazz pianist Kenny Barron and the phenomenal guitarist Mike Stern as well as Jazz String Quartet Sojourner, cellist Akua Dixon and Sherry Maricle and the Diva Big Band.”

Beginning in 2002 Kim co-produced the “LADY GOT CHOPS Women’s Month Jazz Festival” with the owners of the Jazz – Brooklyn’s Newest Jazz Cafe, Lillithe Myersand her daughter Tiecha Merritt. Since the cafe’s closure in 2009, Kim has organized the 2010, 2011 and 2012 festivals in various venues through the boroughs, Long Island and Peekskill NY. The festival included a dance troupe in 2010 and had been renamed the LADY GOT CHOPS Women’s History Month Music and Arts Festival.It is still a grassroots venture. She has worked in NY’s Latin Music Scene -which includes two times being asked to perfom on a float up NY’s 5th Ave. Kim has also performed at the Marylou Williams Jazz Festival at Kennedy Center PLays:Eubie, The Wiz, Really Rosie,The Baby Janes in Holiday Kisses,National Black Theatre’s Soul Journey Into Truth.

Kim’s career demonstrates a commitment to excellence – a quality she acquired from her grandparents and parents. She remains interested in Guyanese culture and society and advises Guyanese musicians to be focused, control their egos and to remember there is always something new to learner

To check out more of Kim’s accomplishment, visit her website at

Jazz Musician
Jazz Musician

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