Stanley Clarke

One of my favorite quotations is from L. Ron Hubbard: ‘A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists.’ … I’m always dreaming, and I take the responsibility seriously.” — Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke on bass

Stanley Clarke is nothing short of a living legend, having liberated the bass in much the same way that Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker liberated their instruments decades earlier.

Born in Philadelphia, Clarke headed to New York City right after college as a classically trained bass virtuoso. He quickly made his mark on the New York jazz scene by gigging with Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and Horace Silver before joining Getz pianist Chick Corea to form the seminal, GRAMMY-winning fusion outfit Return to Forever in 1972. As the band took more of an electric focus (with Bill Connors and Lenny White, and later Al Di Meola), Clarke not only split his time between upright and electric bass, but also launched the high-end boutique bass guitar market via his use of custom-made Alembic basses.

Taking issue with the narrow perception of the bass as a support rather than solo instrument, Clarke released a string of solo albums, beginning with Children Forever in 1973. The watershed recording, School Days, came three years later, with a title track that served as the first bona fide bass anthem. Clarke also pushed the tonal range of the electric bass upward, inventing the piccolo and tenor basses in an effort to speak in the range of his musical hero, John Coltrane.

Having solidified his solo career, Clarke moved on to a number of acclaimed pairings, including the Clarke/Duke Project (with keyboardist George Duke), the New Barbarians (with Keith Richards and Ron Wood), appearances on two Paul McCartney albums, Animal Logic (with Police drummer Stewart Copeland) and Rite of Strings (with Jean-Luc Ponty and Al Di Meola).

The late ‘80s brought new opportunities, as Clarke was hired to score the TV series Pee Wee’s Playhouse. This led to his first movie score for the film Boyz n the Hood, and what has become his second career as an acclaimed film composer. Other notable soundtracks include Passenger 57, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Poetic Justice, The Transporter and the Showtime series, Soul Food.

Chick Corea | Stanley Clarke | Lenny White | Jean-Luc Ponty | Frank Gambale

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