The seeds for Brendan Clarke’s musical journey were sown early in life. He grew up in the nation’s capital, Canberra in a musical household, his parents Fay and Gerry both talented pianists with Gerry also a keen organist. At the age of seven, Brendan began formal piano lessons firstly with Noela Bermingham and then from his grandmother Zeita Clarke. After four years he realised piano wasn’t to his taste and so at the age of eleven he took up the bass guitar studying at Marist College with legendary Canberra bassist Tony Hayes. He was soon playing in the school concert and jazz bands, as well as joining the Canberra City Band under the direction of Keith Helgesen. At sixteen Brendan picked up the double bass and went on to complete a Diploma of Music in Jazz Studies at the ANU Canberra School of Music studying with George Urbazchek. Brendan graduated in 1996 and won the Drew Sydes Memorial Award for the most promising student of his year. In the same year he performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California with the Canberra School of Music Big Band who won the right to represent Australia at the festival after winning a nation wide competition. It was whilst at Monterey that Brendan was fortunate to see many of his heroes perform live for the first time including Cedar Walton, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland and BB King.
Brendan has recently returned to Canberra after 18 years living in Sydney where he accumulated a wealth of experience becoming one of Australia’s premier jazz double bassists. He has a built a reputation for his sense of swing, commanding sound, groove and musicality on the bass. In 2001 Brendan was the first bassist ever to win the prestigious National Jazz Award at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. Since then Brendan has played bass on over 50 albums and has appeared at all the major Australian jazz festivals including the Manly Jazz Festival, Thredbo Jazz Festival, Wangaratta festival of Jazz and Blues, Bellingen Jazz Festival, Dubbo Jazz Festival, Freemantle Jazz festival, Glenelg Jazz Festival and the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. He has toured Europe several times including performances at the Berlin jazz festival with the Sandy Evans Trio, Locarno film festival with David Blenkhorn and a tour of Italy and performance at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in 2016 with world music ensemble Mara. In 2004 he recorded at the famous Rainbow Studios in Oslo, Norway as part of a European tour with the Sydney band “Theaktet” led by saxophonist David Theak. Brendan has also represented Australia and performed in the Australian pavilion at World Expo in Japan in 2005 and again in Shanghai, China in 2010 with the George Washingmachine Trio.
In 2005 he was awarded an arts council grant to study in New York City with jazz bass luminaries Curtis Lundy and Rufus Reid. He has also been nominated for the Freedman Fellowship on two occasions. Brendan completed a Masters degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2014 and continued his double bass studies with Craig Scott, Alex Henery and Kees Boersma.
Brendan has accompanied many top international and national artists including Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Maria Schneider, Joe Farnsworth, Darcy James Argue, John Riley, Charles McPherson,Terell Stafford, Bob Shepard, Alex Sipiagin, Kirk Lightsey, Jim McNeely, Wycliffe Gordon, Barbara Morrison, Don Rader, Dale Barlow, Joe Chindamo, Vince Jones, James Morrison, James Muller, Simon Tedeschi, Bobby Gebert, Andrew Dickeson, John Harkins, Bernie McGann and was a long standing member of the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra. He is equally at home and has shared the stage with a wide range of other well known performers including renowned world music ensemble Mara!,The Enormous Horns, Renee Geyer, Grace Knight, Caroline O’Connor, Glenn Shorrock, Simon Burke, David Campbell, Bobby Rydell and as featured guest soloist with the Danish Girls Choir.
In May 2016 & 2017 Brendan facilitated, promoted and played on two east coast Australian tours with legendary New York drummer Joe Farnsworth, iconic Australian saxophonist Dale Barlow and Chicago born and now Sydney based pianist John Harkins. The Joe Farnsworth Prime Time Quartet played to sell out crowds and rave reviews. To coincide with the 2017 tour a live recording of the quartet was released – Brendan Clarke & Joe Farnsworth Prime Time In Sydney.
Brendan also leads his own quartet and in 2013 released his debut album as leader “Stretch” featuring Andrew Gander on drums, guitarist Carl Dewhurst and Murray Jackson on alto saxophone.The quartet has performed at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, The Manly Jazz Festival and regularly performs around Sydney’s clubs and jazz venues.
Since 2002 Clarke has been a regular member of celebrated world music/folk ensemble Mara!, in particular performing for school students around Australia as a part of the Musica Viva in schools program. A highlight being a two tour of Hong Kong in May 2015 where the band performed and held workshops for school students across the city.
Brendan is a passionate jazz educator and has recently become senior bass lecturer at the Jazz Music Institute (JMI) in Brisbane. He has also been a guest educator in bass and improvisation as well as leading ensembles at the Jazz Workshop Australia jazz camp. From 2012 – 2017 he was director of “Jazz Group One” at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Open Academy and since moving to Canberra has commenced a brand new “Jazz and Jam” ensemble program at Bellchambers School of Music.