On UP, bassist Stanley Clarke recruits collaborators from his recent past (and some not so recent) and plays both acoustic upright-his forte during the second half of his career-and the electric bass that helped make him a star. UP opens with the decidedly electric “Pop Virgil,” a funk instrumental that blatantly borrows the guitar figure and horn lines to James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Its contrasting follow-up is the neo-classical “Last Train to Sanity,” with Clarke’s upright bass effectively creating a string quintet with guests the Harlem String Quartet. The title track features both Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland, with whom Clarke formed the unlikely pop group Animal Logic in the late ’80s, and “Brazilian Love Affair-Dedicated to George Duke” honors the recently deceased keyboardist and co-leader of the Clarke/Duke Project through samba rhythms, Clarke’s percussive upright solo and the chanted vocals of Jessica Vautor, Natasha Agrama and Patrice Quinn.
Clarke obviously had fun recruiting these guests, but the results seem self-indulgent. He plays three solo “Bass Folk Songs,” and guides contemporary jazz (“I Have Something to Tell You Tonight”) and acoustic pieces (“Trust-Dedicated to Nana”) featuring the same personnel in keyboardist Ruslan Sirota and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. “School Days,” the title track to Clarke’s classic 1976 solo album, features drummer Gerry Brown (who played on the original) and guitarist Jimmy Herring, yet nothing really new. “La Canción de Sofia,” a live acoustic duet with Return to Forever cohort Chick Corea, closes an unpredictable yet unoriginal CD.