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Zorn’s Prickly Harmony

Stanley Clarke

What would they play? Would they plug in? In my mind the notion of the tight, sold-out quarters of the Blue Note turning into a pressure cooker of fusion-era amplification had me enthralled — and scared. But when I spied an acoustic bass being held aloft and maneuvered toward the stage by a young man who looked curiously like a teenaged Stanley Clarke (turns out it was his son), I put the earplugs away and got ready.

I mean, come on! McCoy Tyner and Billy Cobham and a stand-up bass playing Stanley Clarke? When I first saw the gig mentioned in the Blue Note’s ad, it didn’t read like a usual weeklong residency in New York City. It read more like a one-time festival concert. It read like something that would meet for the first time on Tuesday and develop over the week — that I should make the Sunday show if I wanted to catch them full throttle. And it also read like history. Cobham had not played with Tyner — on stage or in studio — since the pianist’s 1976 soloists-and-strings album Fly With the Wind. Clarke, normally ensconced in Los Angeles doing session work for soundtracks, was inspired by his week in Manhattan to consider spending more time in New York City to get back into the gigging scene.

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