Cli4d (pronounced Clifford) Roberts is a positive force in the universe. He also has a great deal of confidence in his musical ability. The first time I met him he told me he was "the undisputed GrandMasterFunkBassPlayer of the valley." I had no idea what that meant -- until I saw him play the bass. I became enlightened. Since then, I tend to take his word for things.
Cli4d Roberts and I work for the same local company, but his thoughts are far from his day job. The first day we met, a few months ago, we talked about music (and only music) and I was astounded at the things that came out of his mouth. I was thrilled to learn that he writes and records his own music. All original stuff. As I've been flying the D.I.Y. flag for years, this appealed to me. He released his soon-to-be-legendary single, "stackhouse booty," which is available at either Independent Records or Media Play (or online at www.freesitenow.com, click on entertainment and games, then entertainment, then alaskaradoallpro).
Last month I saw Cli4d throw down an hour-long set, in the shadows of the five-story building where he spends his days. Lunch-breakers became concertgoers -- all standing in the presence of a pro. Within 90 minutes he managed to juggle several instruments (bass, keyboards and lead guitar), three outfit changes and a half-hour rain delay, which he greeted with a smile. In fact, he seemed to drive away the rain clouds with his force of will.
Since that show I have learned that Cli4d is on a mission. Currently promoting his "stackhouse booty" single, he hits the clubs each weekend to take his music directly to the people of Colorado Springs and Denver. Cli4d sees his music crossing the lines of color and age, and doesn't much care what kind of crowd is inside, only that the place is packed. Maximum saturation is the goal. He thrills the crowd with "stackhouse booty," then it's back outside, and on to the next club. He pursues his dream diligently, and all on his own, no bandmates to worry about. He feels that others might hold him back from his true potential.
Cli4d recently sat down with the Indy and I asked him why exactly he walks this path alone. "There is less baggage, no road crews... no egos to deal with... and besides, if I land a deal with a major label, I can hire a band to play my music. Since I play guitar, bass and keyboards and sing and write my own music, I do not need help in the studio."
Playing alone is one thing, but writing songs alone is a different skill. "A lot of the local band people don't practice writing songs because writing songs is different from copying songs." I propose that his goal is world distribution. He laughs. "I'm looking for a good deal with a reputable company. I want people all over the world to listen to my music. Not just in Colorado, not just in America."
Cli4d's stuff might be described as "funky jazz-rock," but he avoids labels in music, calling them "imposed segregation." He then suitably names Hendrix as an influence on guitar, but as far as bass (the instrument he was born to play), he names some real heavies: "Verdine White [the bass player for Earth, Wind & Fire], George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham." Like these legendary funk masters, Cli4d has the ability to invoke other-worldly images, transposing the pleasures of this Earth to the outer edges of the universe. I mention Prince. "His early stuff, when he did it all himself."
His vocal influences are more eclectic: Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, James Brown, Jim Morrison... "Even though he sounded drunk, he did some stuff that was phenomenal." And on keyboard his influences include Herbie Hancock, Billy Preston and Stevie Wonder.
Cli4d has been writing and playing music for nearly 28 years. You may have seen him funk out with such bands as The Blues Union, Thee Elements of Life, Hit and Run, Oasis, The Party People, Lifestyle, The Other Brothers, Spice or even on the album Rocking for the Rockies, a project he did with Tiny Barge and Rich Mouser. He has played everything from rock to soul, country to jazz, reggae to bluegrass to blues. He says he "turned pro" a month after buying his first bass, and fondly recalls the first time he "bumped another bass player" out of a band, something to which he became accustomed.
But nowadays, it's solo for Cli4d. Aside from his aggressive promotion for "stackhouse booty," he directs his boundless creativity toward such things as comedy. Check him out at Loonees Comedy Corner on Sept. 25, where he will project his character Cliff "the Black-Italian Gourmet Chef" Roberts. As with music, he holds originality in the highest regard. "When I do my comedy, you will hear things that you have never heard. No other comedian on the planet says things like 'chittlin lasagna, backbone spaghetti and ham hock pizza.' " Until I travel to Loonees, I will take his word for it.