Percussionist and instrument-maker Cleve Pozar is one of the most curious of New York’s under-sung improvisers. He may not perform frequently and his recordings are few in number and entirely scarce, but his position is something like an elder griot of musical possibility living in Brooklyn. Born in Eveleth, Minnesota in 1941 as Robert F. Pozar, he relocated to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan and fell in with avant-garde composers and instrumentalists involved with the ONCE festival. His early collaborators included Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, and a young, experimental Bob James. Pozar relocated to New York in the mid-1960s, studying, performing, and recording with trumpeter-composer Bill Dixon and making his own record date for Savoy. Relocating to Boston at the end of the decade, he studied with famed percussionist Alan Dawson (Tony Williams’ teacher) and committed to wax the gorgeous solo percussion audio collage Cleve Solo Percussion, a tour-de-force of uncategorizable, pure, and unified instrumentalism from a variety of traditions and approaches. It was in the 1970s when he changed his name from Robert to Cleve, based on certain numerological principles. Pozar has been studying Afro-Cuban bata for the last decade-plus and building his own electronic bata arsenal, heard and seen to advantage on a number of YouTube videos.
With such a rich history, it’s no wonder that Cleve Pozar has enchanted such archivists of the arcane as 50 Miles of Elbow Room’s Adam Lore and drummer/writer/filmmaker Hank Shteamer, who is currently working on a documentary about Pozar tentatively titled “I Did the Number.” Watch the trailer above and keep Cleve on your radar.
• Cleve Pozar: http://www.myspace.com/clevepozar