Jazz in the Garden
Stanley Clarke holds the honors as jazz’s first sine qua non electric bass player, making astounding music through the ’70s with Return to Forever. Clarke pursued a career in film and TV scoring as well, but has maintained his interest in jazz and fusion throughout the years, bringing an intensity and integrity to the music that is his alone.
Jazz in the Garden conveys that intensity and integrity with a major difference: It marks the first time Clarke has totally eschewed the electric bass in favor of his bull fiddle. Working with phenomenal Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara and RTF and Vertu bandmate Lenny White, Clarke’s intensity in this acoustic setting is quieter, as on their introspective rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” yet he’s no less powerful. The trio cooks through Miles’ “Solar” and Joe Henderson’s “Isotope,” and Clarke and White give bass ’n’ drum a new meaning with their spare duet reading of Duke’s “Take the Coltrane.”
Clarke plays remarkably, popping strings and playing his amazing double stops on an acoustic bass, even playing arco on “Sicilian Blue” and making the instrument sound like a low-tuned koto on “Sakura Sakura.” However, the real star of this album is Hiromi, who brings six kinds of energy to every note she plays, fusing the playfulness of Horace Silver and the intelligence of Adam Makowitz with some tonal ideas and a lyricism purely her own. Whether displaying her romantic side on a sweet ballad version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” or sizzling through the Monk-ish Clarke original “3 Wrong Notes,” she carries as much of the album as the leader.