The first incarnation of Entourage was in Baltimore, MD, in 1970. Founder and musical director Joe Clark started the group as an experimental fusion of jazz, rock, folk, classical, free improvisation, and spoken word. The group’s first performances were at the Bluesette Nightclub in the 2400 block of Charles Street, which featured rock groups on a regular basis. Its owner, Art Peyton, a childhood friend of Clark’s, turned the club over to Entourage on Saturday nights, when it turned into an after hours club, starting at 1 am. Clark was based at the time in Millbrook, NY, where he was the musician in residence for the Dance Department at Bennett College. He would commute weekly to Baltimore to perform on the weekend. This first incarnation lasted a little over a year, culminating with a featured weekend slot at The Classroom, Baltimore’s premiere music room at the time. The pressures of the commute and a lack of financial support combined to effectively end this version of the group.
Clark decided to return to Millbrook full time and reformed Entourage as a trio with Rusty Clark (no relation), violist and guitarist, and Michael Smith, drummer and percussionist. At that time, Clark was also the musical director for singer songwriter Bob Brown. Brown was a Maryland artist, signed to Richie Haven’s Stormy Forest label. It was on Brown’s second album, Willoughby’s Lament, that Rusty Clark and Joe Clark became acquainted. The two were joined by drummer Michael Smith in Millbrook, and developed the material that would become the basis for the first Folkways album, “Entourage“, released in 1973. The music at this point was more refined and centered on a sense of flow, connected to dream state imagery. The combination of instruments played by the trio resulted in a much less idiomatic sound that tried to fuse the styles of music the players had in their background and, at the same time, blur them into an unclassifiable, eclectic blend. Clark’s involvement with modern dance began at Bennett, and would prove to be a component of the group’s identity and performances permanently.
By 1974, Clark had relocated to New London, CT. to work for the Dance Department of Connecticut College. Wall Matthews came east from San Francisco to rejoin the ensemble. A series of rehearsals with Smith and bassist Terry Plumeri produced a number of rich ideas, but circumstances did not allow this particular construct to crystalize and move forward. As a result the third incarnation of the group was able to assemble here when Rusty Clark returned and along with Matthews and Clark, began creating music that contained more formal elements of composition, while still retaining an improvisational feel. As the flow energy and dream state imagery became even more pronounced, a decidedly “minimalist” feeling emerged, along with elements of world music, the use of drone and impressionistic color. In the summer of 1975, the trio reconnected with Michael Smith in Silver Spring, MD., to record, for 300$, the group’s 2nd Folkways release, “The Neptune Collection“.
The group’s creative basis was based upon Joe Clark’s strong belief in ” Collective Composition”. It was his concept that contributions made by participating members in the building of a musical piece, whether in reaction to a “theme” written by one of the composers, or, through the process of the group’s improvisations being the basis for a composition, were all part of resulting compositions. Hence the crediting of compositions as “Collectively Composed” by the group, or “Collectively Composed, theme by_____”, became the standard crediting notation. this applied to the choreographic work of the dancers as well.