Stanley Clarke – The Stanley Clarke Band

A new Stanley Clarke album is an event for me and his legions of fans. On this, his 3rd album for Heads Up International, he has surrounded himself with – and given great credit to – some of the world’s top young players in the jazz-rock arena. He’s also got drummer Lenny White in to share production duties.

And what a joy: even from the first bar of Ruslan Sirota’s ‘Soldier’ you know it’s a Stanley Clarke album. That distinctive bass sound cuts like a knife and always has something to say! This song alternates between melancholy and rockin’ out and comes to us at an appropriate time when the leaders of the UK and USA are discussing how and when to end at least one senseless conflict. Of course, it continues the theme of his previous solo release ‘The Toys of Men’. ‘Fulani’ was penned by long-time Clarke collaborator Armand Sabal-Lecco and is a fascinating mix of groove and drama, pulled off in a way that Clarke has made his trademark.

I also enjoy Clarke’s forays into ballad territory. I loved ‘What if I Forget the Champagne?’ from ‘East River Drive’ and I love ‘Here’s Why Tears Dry’ which showcases the searing guitar of Charles Altura, sounding like Jorge Strunz on Caldera’s ‘Sky Islands’ album. But funk is what I live for and in the updated version of an old song, ‘I Wanna Play for You Too’, I get plenty! Dirty, low bass with voice box and a chugging groove that doesn’t stop!

‘Bass Folk Song # 10’ is a funky solo piece from a series that began on an earlier album, sandwiched between a very blue, minor-key intro and fade. Which of Stanley Clarke’s fans doesn’t know the blissful ‘No Mystery’ from his RTF days? This time the staccato piano figure is provided by Hiromi, who really makes this song her own with a beautiful solo amid the rocky flavour that the song has in this version. The band rock it up, funk it up and even skank it up but it remains the Chick Corea masterpiece we know and love. Live, this must be knockout!

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