In 1971, Stanley Clarke, a tall string bean bassist from the Philadelphia Academy of Music, exploded onto the New York jazz scene. There he played gigs with renown bandleaders such as Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans, and Stan Getz. It’s also where he met a budding young pianist/composer named Chick Corea. Working with Corea and their newly formed jazz/fusion band, Return to Forever, Clarke became a pivotal figure in propelling the bass into a role as a viable melodic solo instrument.
RTF was a showcase for each of the quartet’s strong musical personalities, composing prowess, and instrumental voices. The band recorded eight albums, two of which were certified gold (Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior), and another of which won a Grammy award (No Mystery).
Together with his trademark Alembic bass guitars, Clarke launched the bass revolution. He is credited with pioneering the percussive slap funk technique first used by Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone), but Clarke is quoted as saying Graham only had one lick. Stanley built his facility to frightening speed, and then adapted it to complex jazz harmonies.
In 1974 he released his his first solo album entitles simply Stanley Clarke that featured a classic bass piece entitled “Lopsy Lu.” In 1976 Stanley released School Days, of which the title track is now a bona fide bass anthem. I’ve included both for your listening enjoyment. By the way, Clarke says if you’re serious about being a jazz bassist, you need to get his recording of School Days and learn it note for note.
Stanley developed into far more than just a bassist/composer. He’s scored both television shows and films that include Boys N the Hood, What’s Love Got to Do With It (the Tina Turner Story), Passenger 57, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Panther, The Five Heartbeats, Little Big League, and Romeo Must Die. As you can see, I’m a big fan. Hope you will be too after you hear him play.
Lopsy Lu: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtyzeBsZe4A
The Dancer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7Y8FhyGbVk&feature=fvst
East River Drive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrpyluVvENk
Mothership Connection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tQ5tJ2n3d0&feature=related
School Days: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAo3TEa1j3U&feature=related
Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0LJ2GlziJk&feature=related
Justice’s Groove: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS1iTymS3uU&feature=related
Wild Dog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypIga5kF9TE&feature=related
The Toys of Men: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX6e6CbxgiM&feature=related
Hot Fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpCdfCBk6sM&feature=related
Funny How Time Flies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiHzJDFR8Ns&feature=related
Bass Violence 1975-2008: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcGbDHihCU4&feature=related
I’m pairing Stanley with a 2007 Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($20.00). It’s mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (92%) augmented by some classic Bordeaux varieties (3% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc, & 1% Petit Verdot). The wine is a deep ruby red that opens with aromas of cherry, blackberry, toasty oak, and spice. Its palate is fairly complex with cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and a touch of caramel that finishes with dark chocolate. It’s a good value and a classy wine to match the music of Stanley Clark. Enjoy!