Clarke studied percussion with Jim Blackley and played with Chris Gage and Dave Robbins early in his career. From 1965 to 1967 he toured in a quintet with John Handy, and joined The Fifth Dimension in 1967, remaining with the ensemble until 1969.
In 1970, he moved to Toronto, where he began a longstanding association with Rob McConnell‘s group, Boss Brass; he also played with Ed Bickert, Ruby Braff, Jim Galloway, Sonny Greenwich, Jay McShann, Emily Remler, and Frank Rosolino. In 1976, he toured with Jim Hall for the first time and in 1981 did an international tour with Oscar Peterson.
He relocated to New York City in 1985, where he has played or recorded with Toshiko Akiyoshi, Eddie Daniels, Oliver Jones, Roger Kellaway, Helen Merrill, Ken Peplowski, and Joe Roccisano, among others. He played with the Free Trade ensemble in 1994, a quintet composed of Clarke, Ralph Bowen, Neil Swainson, Renee Rosnes, and Peter Leitch.