Clarence Penn is one of the busiest jazz drummers in the world, a leader of multiple bands, a composer, a prolific producer and an educator.
Since 1991, when he arrived in New York City, Penn has placed his unique blend of mega-chops, keen intellect and heady musicianship at the service of a staggering array of A-list artists: a chronological shortlist includes Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano and Fourplay.
Penn’s impressive discography includes several hundred studio albums (including the Grammy-winning recordings “34th and Lex” by Randy Brecker and “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue” by Maria Schneider) representing a 360-spectrum of jazz expression; he’s toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan and Southeast Asia. He’s composed music for films and commercials and produced tracks for many singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a 10 Best of 1997 accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, “Penn’s Landing.”
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a protégé of Ellis Marsalis, Penn is active as an educator and drum clinician. From 2004 to 2012, he taught on the faculty of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He’s also served on faculty at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the St. Louis College of Music in Rome, Italy, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Intensive Jazz Institute.
Whether Penn is leading his own band or performing as a sideman, he brings to the table unfailing versatility and professionalism, an ability to find creative ways to interpret a global array of styles and idioms and a stated intention “to play music that’s warm and organic for the people and for myself.”
His motto: “When people hear my name, I want them to think, ‘I don’t know what band he’s playing with tonight or what he’ll be doing, but it’s going to be good, it’s going to be musical.’ ”
Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.