Return to Musician Center

Clarence Penn

Born: March 2, 1968    Primary Instrument: Drums

Clarence Penn

Clarence Penn ranks high among drummers who are versatile and savvy enough to play any style of music. Having played in a semi-professional capacity since the age of 15, Penn has toured, performed and recorded with a veritable who's who of musical stars, including Betty Carter, Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Jacky Terrasson, Roberta Flack, Dizzy Gilespie, Dianne Reeves, Cyrus Chestnut, Stephen Scott, Steps Ahead, Mike Stern and Rachel Z. He is probably one of the most sought after drummers of his generation on the scene.

Growing up the second of three children in his native Detroit Michigan, Penn got his first drum set as a third grader, picking the drums as his instrument of choice rather by chance. “My neighbor played the drums,” remembers Penn. “And I would hear him practicing everyday when I came home from school.” Although Penn admits to not wanting to practice, he nevertheless continued taking drum lessons, eventually reaching a level of competence on the drums that afforded him the opportunity to spend his last year in high school at Michigan's prestigious school of fine arts, Interlochen Arts Academy. There Penn toyed with the idea of pursuing a steady classical career, but was quickly drawn to the ultimately rigorous routine of a free-lance musician ....
read more

”Mr. Penn using brushes might hesitate a minute, like a plane hitting an air pocket, suspending time for a second, then rush back in. It was musical wit, improvisational play at its best.” Peter Watrous - New York Times

”He has a way of pushing and filling-in and giving you the right kick to push you to the next level of playing.” John Swana, trumpeter

”He's classically trained, and knows a lot of music...he has the total package.” Tim Warfield, saxophonist

”A soft drummer, full of thoughtful choices...A revelation.” Harriet McLeod - News Leader staff writer

”His use of space was masterful, mind blowing.” Ryan Vertner - Indiana Daily News

”...stroking rather than thumping the kit, he played one of the most musical solos I've heard...” Keith Bruce - The Herald Glasgow

“Clarence is the kind of musician who leaves his judgments of music and musicians aside to provide the best support and complement. He really cares that everyone on stage sound as good as they can. That explains why the results are so great with the extraordinary musicians he brings into his projects. Fireworks!”—Dave Douglas

“Clarence is a charismatic player, with great dynamic range and drama and musicality. He’s an intricate and heady drummer who thinks compositionally, but uses his gut and instincts towards the end result of making something exciting, that feels alive, and is full of energy and passion. He doesn’t have a limited conception of what the drummer is. Of course, he drives the band and pushes the time, but he also knows how to stop and allow things to happen—to be a colorist.”—Maria Schneider

“I think Clarence is a natural leader. He listens like a producer. He has clarity and vision. He hears everything—the bass, the high voices, the middle. He understands harmony. He understands lyrics. He has the will to solve problems and figure them out. He doesn’t stay traditional, but makes the music free and colorful. He understands that music is play. I’d play with him every day if I could.”—Luciana Souza

As a Leader
Penn's Landing (2001)
Criss Cross Jazz 1134 CD

Play-Penn (1997)
Criss Cross Jazz 1201 CD

Disclaimer: All About Jazz is not responsible for the accuracy of the discographical data at the website(s) provided. If a link is no longer valid, please contact discography@allaboutjazz.com. Thank you.

Please Sign Up or Log In to send your inquiry.

Events Calendar

Date Venue Ticket
Dec20 Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center
York, PA
buy

Post these events to your social pages. Learn how here.

  • CD/LP/Track Review
    Play Penn by Mark F. Turner
  • CD/LP/Track Review
    Play-Penn by David A. Orthmann
No videos available. Add a video now.
comments powered by Disqus
Rank: 2,568 Views: 7,127 Fans: 2
Featured recording “Play-Penn”

Play-Penn
Criss Cross (2001)

Weekly Giveaways

Matthew Shipp

Matthew Shipp
About | Enter

Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley
About | Enter

Tord Gustavsen

Tord Gustavsen
About | Enter

Alfredo Rodriguez

Alfredo Rodriguez
About | Enter

An innovative and rich resource For Jazz Musicians

The All About Jazz musician database grows daily
with the help of musicians, supportive professionals and advocates.

Musician? Plug in and promote yourself today.

Learn how