Pianist and producer Mark de Clive-Lowe is a man of the world. Splitting his childhood between New Zealand and Japan, he has also called Boston and London home before settling here in sunny Los Angeles.
Today he'll be celebrating the two year anniversary of his monthly residency Church at the Del Monte Speakeasy, where he has been regularly performing small miracles. Specifically, he's gotten jazzbos on the dance floor, and gotten booty shakers to soak up acoustic bass solos.
Between sets last month, de Clive-Lowe asked me what seemed like a rhetorical question: “Do you like whisky?” He does, and in fact there's a drink named after him on the menu at the Speakeasy, the “de Clive Lowe.” It's brimming with Jameson.
The first set, a brisk straight-ahead romp, found de Clive-Lowe working a strong left-hand alongside his swinging sidemen, bassist Trevor Ware, and drummer Dexter Story. The room was packed and the bar swarmed.
The second set was turned up a little louder. The staff cleared the tables from the dancefloor and pretty young things hit it as guest drummer Jamire Williams laid down a funky backbeat and de Clive-Lowe's fiancée Nia Andrews took to the microphone for a few tunes.
After two years of hosting his residency, de Clive-Lowe knows his audience and what they are looking for. And his wandering spirit has brought this particular party on the road. He has an upcoming monthly residency in New York's East Village and has performed in South Africa and London in the last few months, with plans for Miami, St. Louis and Lisbon in 2013.
De Clive-Lowe started on piano at the age of four, branching into jazz as a teenager in Japan. He tried his hand at the Berklee School of Music but gave it up after a year to immerse himself in London's dance scene. He ended up staying for ten years. “The formal side of training didn't sit well with me,” he says. “The ironic part of the whole thing, growing up wanting to be a jazz musician, was that my ear wasn't ready for some things but working in the London underground scene helped shape my ear in different ways.”
That unique blend of experience and soul brought him to Los Angeles four years ago, where he started to embrace all of his musical interests. “The main thing for me, at this point, is jazz music has come back in my life. In the UK, I was running away from any jazz at all. By the time Church started, I wanted the dynamic of the night to present my journey as a musician. That's why it starts acoustic and moves to the dance floor.”
Most importantly, de Clive-Lowe has found a ravenous audience for his blend of genres. “The night has the improvisation and jazz dynamic throughout. That's the journey I want to present. Music is the religion to me. There is so much expression shared through it and it can be so uplifting. It's our celebration of music and dance. That's our gospel.”
Last Saturday, de Clive-Lowe tied the knot with Andrews and it looks as though he may be here for a while, or at least as long as any man with gigs booked on five continents can. “It's great that L.A. is where this all started and that's where we want to throw down. We're still in wedding mode. The show is part of our extended post-wedding party!” I don't know if the de Clive-Lowes are registered anywhere, but I do know a good drink you can send their way.