With 'Temple,' Clemons finds harmony

St. Petersburg Times, 2002-11-06, by: Dave Sheiber
Clarence Clemons plays all the music he enjoys on his new live album, a mix of rock, Latin, jazz and world beat.
Since August, Clarence Clemons has been barnstorming the United States and Europe with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. But the Big Man has still managed to squeeze in a little extracurricular musical activity. It's a live album with his own group, Band of Faith, featuring Clemons on vocals, his familiar sax, and percussion. And it hits stores this week. Clarence Clemons Temple of Soul -- Live in Asbury Park was recorded Sept. 2-3, 2001, at the Stone Pony, Springsteen's legendary Jersey shore stomping ground. For Clemons, who launched his solo career in the early '80s with the Red Bank Rockers, the project is a lively labor of love, weaving influences such as rock, Latin, jazz and world beat. He rounded out his band with a four-piece horn section and piano work by Grammy-winning producer John Colby, who wrote three songs with Clemons for the album (Clemons co-wrote five other cuts). Another familiar name -- Springsteen -- wrote three tracks on the album: Small Things, Paradise by the "C" and Savin' Up.

This week proved more eventful than Clemons had planned. On Tuesday, he underwent surgery for a detached retina, forcing the band to scrub its Austin concert Wednesday and re-schedule for March 2. But Clemons plans to return to the stage Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. He and his fellow E Streeters join Springsteen Nov. 24 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Clemons talked recently with the Times about his new album.

Have you been looking forward to doing an album combining so many styles?

It's all going on in the Temple of Soul. It's me enjoying all the things I like to do. I wanted to take my fans on a musical journey.

How fun was it to put this album together?

When something feels that good, it comes pretty easy. What we wanted to do was capture the energy of the live shows we do. I'm looking forward to doing a studio album next with my band, but right now I just wanted to present the band to my fans and create some new fans.

You recorded this with a big band.

Yeah, and the interesting thing is the horn section on this record are the same guys who played on my first record (with the Red Bank Rockers in 1983) -- they did Jump Start My Heart back then, and they're doing it again here. I told them I'd take them on the road -- it just took 20 years or so to do.

You've written some new songs, such as Sax in the City, Livin Without You and Road to Paradise. Was it hard to find the time?

It came really easy. I was writing with John Colby, who's very talented, and I admire him a lot. It was very spontaneous. We spent a couple of weeks together and came up with some great stuff.

Three tunes are by Bruce Springsteen. Did you have certain ones in mind for the album?

Well, they're songs that he had recorded that I had been doing. Savin' Up is actually a song I'd recorded on my first album.

You're still getting huge ovations when Springsteen introduces you at each concert. What does that feel like, after all these years?

Well, I don't really hear it because I have monitors in my ears. Maybe that's a good thing, because it could be little bit overwhelming to hear that response. I'm a very modest guy. I can see them and I can feel them, though, and that's great. And every once in a while, I'll pull a monitor out of my ear so I can hear, but then I stick it right back in. If you could measure my energy and love back at them, it would be equal.

You're still the Big Man, but it looks like you've been losing weight.

I've sort of adopted a new lifestyle. First thing is I hired a trainer, and she's my assistant and my cook and my mentor. She travels with me, and we work out every day. We do weight workouts, aerobics, stretching. I've been planning to do a calendar when I hit 61 (Jan. 11), so I'm getting in shape for that.

Is it tough to get enough sleep when you're in the midst of a world tour and creating your own project at the same time?

It is. But I don't party anymore. You'd be surprised what you can do if you get up early in the morning. That's the key to it - work out early and get ahead of the game. No matter how late I go to bed, I get up early, and then I just take naps during the day. I have a lot more energy than I ever had. I just want to stay busy. That keeps you out of trouble.