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Stanley Clarke: Bass First

Catching up (and looking back) with the unrelenting bass pioneer

Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke in 1979
Stanley Clarke (left) and George Duke in 1981
Stanley Clarke (r.) and Ronnie Wood in the New Barbarians in 1979
Return to Forever 1973 (l. to r.): Bill Connors, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Lenny White
Stanley Clarke conducting
Stanley Clarke (left) at age 16 in a trio featuring drummer Darryl Brown and bassist Randolph Malachi

Stanley Clarke has been a bass legend, in jazz and several other genres, for nearly four decades. At 63, he’s happy to be more active than ever-as a recording artist, bandleader, composer for film and television, music educator and more.

He earned a 2015 Grammy nomination in the Best Instrumental Composition category, for a track off his latest album, Up (Mack Avenue), a project that features such diverse Clarke pals as longtime musical partner Chick Corea, Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland, whose perky temperament inspired the album’s title. Up‘s dozen songs range from three deeply felt solo acoustic bass pieces to the jigsaw-puzzle-like “Last Train to Sanity” (the Grammy nom). It also includes a smooth-jazz-styled version of “Brazilian Love Affair,” written by the late George Duke, with whom Clarke formed the R&B-oriented Clarke/Duke Project in the 1980s.

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Originally Published

George Varga

George Varga began drumming in bands at 12 and writing professionally about music at 15. A Louisiana native who grew up mostly in Germany, he has earned three Pulitzer Prize nominations as the music critic at the San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2002, he created and taught the UC San Diego Extension course, “Jazz in a Post-Ken-Burns World.” Varga’s latest project is Acid Reflux & The Wardrobe Malfunctions, a free-jazz Ashlee Simpson/Janet Jackson tribute band.