JACOB H. CARRUTHERS FOR INNER CITY STUDIES
Musician, writer and public speaker, Corky McClerkin has been quietly and steadily building a loyal following around the world with his "Total Jazz" sound. His talents and accomplishments in these three areas have shaped the Corky McClerkin we see and hear today.
As a young child, Corky McClerkin often spoke at local events. He also participated in the movie, "H'ANT IT AWFUL" (Tele-Movie Pictures, 1949), demonstrating his performance talent and his ability to mesmerize. It was also during this time when he was twice crowned King of Chicago Defender's Bud Billiken Parade. Seven years of piano lessons coupled with his early ambition in childhood gave him the opportunity to succeed Herbie Hancock on the keyboards in Chicago's Hyde Park High School Jazz Band. Corky studied at Northern Illinois University prior to spending three years playing in the 283rd Army Band while stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, he achieved an undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University and a M.A. in Urban Studies at Loyola University.
Since the 1960's Corky has performed professionally throughout the Chicago area. Guided by his mentor, Jazz tenor great, Von Freeman, he developed his talents throughout the 1970's while also discovering his passion for writing. As a featured columnist for the Chicago Courier, he was inspired to write Undercurrents (1978), a collection of short stories about the black experience.
In 1981, Corky strengthened his talents by taking on the position of musical director and arranger for the Chicago production of Sasha, Sing Dinah! and wrote a play, Life Cycles, performed at the Chicago Cultural Center. In 1983 he built on his experiences by releasing his first album, Searchin' for the Soul (WinCor Records, 1983), with the title song later selected for re-release in Europe (Soul Jazz Records, 1992). Traveling and performing in the Far East in 1986 energized Corky's creative talents and stimulated ideas for his second collection, The Power Of One (Southport Records, 1993). In 1996, The Corky McClerkin Trio advanced to the finals in BET's search for Best Jazz Instrumentalist Groups. This distinction culminated in a live video which continues to air frequently. Today, Corky's group performs at various local venues, including many Chicagoland Jazz Festivals. He is proud to have performed with such musicians as: Sonny Stitt, Eddie "Lockjaw' Davis, Eldee Young, Elvin Jones and Jack DeJohnette. He has accompanied many well-known singers like Dee Dee Bridgewater, Earnestine Anderson, Linda Hopkins, Al Hibbler, plus creative Chicago vocalists Sasha Daltonn, Dee Alexander, and Joan Collaso.
Island of Dreams (WinCor Records, 2001), Corky's latest release, is a celebration of the versatility of African-American music. This CD resulted from Corky's many years of perforance lectures to young listeners who were interested in the evolution of jazz. It's energetic, free, inspirational, peaceful, sensual, dynamic, and demonstrates that ... "the music of tomorrow is merely a renewed version of yesterdays idea's," says McClerkin.
The Corky McClerkin Trio's television appearances include: WLS Chicago's "Weekend Edition" (renamed "Chicagoing"), and WTTW's "Common Ground". His solo concerts range from performing Duke Ellington's music in Orchestra Hall to "playing" tribute by performing the music of "Jazz Giants" such as Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, and Thelonius Monk in The Chicago Cultural Center. Although he enjoys solo piano, Corky feels at his best while performing in the Trio format. "The musical challenges and interplay that occur between jazz musicians create a never-ending source of energy and personal fulfillment, " says Corky.
Recently, The American Biographical Institute has included Corky in their 2001 edition of the International Directory of Distinguished Leaders. He is also a member of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), the American Federation of Musicians and the World Future Society.
Corky credits much of his success to the love and support of his wife, Winnie, his daughter, Casemmie, son-in-law, Kweli, granddaughter, Pasama, plus the positive input of his "spiritual" brother, Dr. Curtis Prince. Perhaps his primary influence came from his favorite uncle, Lewis Ogletree, a pianist and trumpet player with the Fletcher Henerson Orchestra, who performed regularly at the Parkway ballroom, across the street from the apartment where Corky grew up. It is Corky McClerkin's hope that his music, writing and speaking continue to influence and involve the world in the greatness and diversity of Jazz.
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