I first heard about the man now known as Cleve Pozar in 1999, when I was a DJ at a college-radio station in NYC. I grew to love his otherworldly percussion on Bill Dixon's Intents and Purposes, an avant-garde jazz classic from 1967 (at which time Cleve still went by his birth name, Robert). I tracked down two of Cleve's solo LPs—including a great self-released, undated record titled simply Cleve Solo Percussion—and my interest snowballed. I contacted Bill Dixon and others to see if anyone knew what had became of Cleve, but no one had any info.
Six or seven years later, I blogged about the mysterious Cleve Pozar. It wasn't a "Have you seen this man?" post, so much as a tribute to Cleve's small yet substantial recorded legacy. About six months later, I received this one-line e-mail: "Bob Pozar is Cleve Pozar. I am Cleve."
It was the man himself, and it turned out that he was then living just a few subway stops away from me in Brooklyn. We met for two Q&A sessions, which segued into plain, old hanging out. I told him I was a fellow drummer, and we quickly bonded. I learned about his remarkable life story (from a small-town Midwestern upbringing to the thriving Ann Arbor experimental-music scene of the early '60s, the early free-jazz period in NYC and way beyond), and that since the '70s, he'd become deeply immersed in the Afro-Cuban percussion tradition of Batà.
I thought that maybe I should start filming him; Laal Shams, my then-girlfriend (now wife!), agreed and we bought a camera. For the next several years, from roughly 2008 to 2011, we documented Cleve in a variety of settings: performing, practicing, repairing equipment, doing odd jobs and simply chilling in Brooklyn, and visiting his mother in Eveleth, the small Minnesota mining community where he grew up.
I also interviewed friends, family members and associates, including Cleve's son, Mingus, his early bandmate Bob James (who wrote the theme song from Taxi and whose mid-'70s records are prized by hip-hop sample hounds) and his longtime friend and collaborator Cooper-Moore. What you'll see here is a brief trailer sourced from this footage and edited with the invaluable help of Dan Scofield.
It is my hope that we can raise the funds necessary to turn this into a proper documentary short. A formal fund-raising plan is in the works, but for now, anyone interested in contributing to the project, please contact me at hank [dot] shteamer [at] timeoutny [dot] com. I also welcome comments, questions or any other feedback you might have.
Thanks for watching,
Hank Shteamer, 3/6/12