Stanley Clarke

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Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke - Leverkusener Jazztage 2016-AL4909.jpg
Stanley Clarke at Leverkusener Jazztage (Germany), November 7, 2016
Background information
Born (1951-06-30) June 30, 1951 (age 72)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
  • Double bass
  • bass guitar
Years active1966–present

Stanley Clarke (born June 30, 1951) is an American bassist, composer and founding member of Return to Forever, one of the first jazz fusion bands. Clarke gave the bass guitar a prominence it lacked in jazz-related music. He is the first jazz-fusion bassist to headline tours, sell out shows worldwide and have recordings reach gold status. [1] [2] [3]


Clarke is a 5-time Grammy winner, with 15 nominations, 3 as a solo artist, 1 with the Stanley Clarke Band, and 1 with Return to Forever. [4] [5] Clarke was selected to become a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship. [6]

A Stanley Clarke electric bass is permanently on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. [7] [8] [1]

Music career

Early years

Clarke with Return to Forever, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York, 1974 Stanley-Clarke.jpg
Clarke with Return to Forever, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York, 1974

Clarke was born on June 30, 1951, in Philadelphia. [9] His mother sang opera around the house, belonged to a church choir, and encouraged him to study music. [10] He started on accordion, then tried violin. [11] But he felt awkward holding such a small instrument in his big hands when he was twelve years old and over six feet tall. No one wanted the acoustic bass in the corner, so he picked it up. [12] He took lessons on the double bass at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, studying classical bass for five years under Eligio Rossi. He picked up bass guitar in his teens so that he could perform at parties and imitate the rock and pop bands that girls liked. [10]

Clarke attended the Philadelphia Musical Academy (later known as the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts, and ultimately as the University of the Arts, after having merged with the Philadelphia College of Art) and after graduating moved to New York City in 1971. [13] His recording debut was with Curtis Fuller. He worked with Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders, then in 1972 with Tony Williams Lifetime Experience, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, and Art Blakey, followed by Gil Evans, Mel Lewis, and Horace Silver. [11]

Return to Forever (band)

Clarke intended to become the first black musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra until he met jazz pianist Chick Corea. [14] At the time, Corea was working with Stan Getz putting together a new backing band for him and writing music for the group; these pieces first surfaced on two albums recorded in February/March 1972 in New York, Captain Marvel (credited to Getz, released in 1974) and Return to Forever (credited to Corea, issued in Europe in 1972). Clarke's playing and improvising was prominent on both albums; the band also played a couple of gigs with Getz in Europe. At this early stage, the band as separate from Getz was mostly a studio side project, but the members soon realized that it had potential as a regular live band, and so the band Return to Forever had been born. [15]

The first edition of Return to Forever performed primarily Latin-oriented music and used only acoustic instruments (except for Corea's Fender Rhodes piano). This band consisted of singer Flora Purim, her husband Airto Moreira (both Brazilians) on drums and percussion, Corea's longtime musical co-worker Joe Farrell on saxophone and flute, and Clarke on bass. Their first album, titled Return to Forever , was recorded for ECM Records in 1972. The second album, Light as a Feather (1973), was released by Polydor and included the song "Spain". [16] [17]

After the second album, Farrell, Purim and Moreira left the group to form their own band, and guitarist Bill Connors, drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Mingo Lewis were added. Lenny White (who had played with Corea in Miles Davis's band) replaced Gadd and Lewis on drums and percussion, and the group's third album, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), was released.

Fusion was a combination of rock and jazz which they helped develop in the early 1970s. Clarke was playing a new kind of music, using new techniques, and giving the bass guitar a prominence it lacked. He drew attention to the bass guitar as a solo instrument that could be melodic and dominant in addition to being part of the rhythm section. [18] For helping to bring the bass guitar to the front of the band, Clarke cites Jaco Pastorius, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, and Larry Graham. [19]

After Return to Forever's second album, Light as a Feather , Clarke received job offers from Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Ray Manzarek of the Doors, but he remained with Return to Forever until 1977. [19] During the early 1980s, he toured with Corea and Return to Forever, then worked with Bobby Lyle, Eliane Elias, David Benoit and Michel Petrucciani. He toured in a band with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in 1991. In 1998 he founded Superband with Lenny White, Larry Carlton, and Jeff Lorber.


Corea produced Clarke's first solo album, Children of Forever (1973), and played keyboards on it with guitarist Pat Martino, drummer Lenny White, flautist Art Webb, and vocalists Andy Bey and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Clarke played double bass and bass guitar. [20]

Clarke's second self-titled album Stanley Clarke (1974) featured Tony Williams on drums, Bill Connors on electric and acoustic guitar, and Jan Hammer on synthesizer [Moog], electric piano, organ, and piano [acoustic].

While on tour, British guitarist Jeff Beck was performing the song "Power" from that album, and this was the impetus for their meeting and Beck's introduction to Hammer. They toured together, and Beck appeared on some of Clarke's albums, including Journey to Love (1975) [21] and Modern Man (1978). [22]

The album School Days (Epic, 1976) brought Clarke the most attention and praise he had received so far. With its memorable riff, the title song became so revered that fans called out for it during concerts. [19] [23]

Rock and funk

Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten in the SMV Thunder Tour, Stockholm Jazz Festival, 2009 Clarke Wooten.jpg
Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten in the SMV Thunder Tour, Stockholm Jazz Festival, 2009

Clarke has spent much of his career outside jazz. In 1979, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones formed the New Barbarians with Clarke and Keith Richards. [24] Two years later, Clarke and keyboardist George Duke formed the Clarke/Duke Project, which combined pop, jazz, funk, and R&B. They met in 1971 in Finland when Duke was with Cannonball Adderley. They recorded together for the first time on Clarke's album Journey to Love. Their first album contained the single "Sweet Baby", [25] [26] which became a top 20 pop hit. They reunited for tours during the 1990s [11] and the 2000s. [25]

Clarke joined fellow bassist Paul McCartney in 1981 to play bass on McCartney's 1982 & 1983 releases Tug of War [27] and Pipes of Peace . [28] [29] [30]

The Stanley Clarke Band

The Stanley Clarke Band is an American jazz band led by Clarke. He founded the band in 1985, with Ruslan Sirota, Shariq Tucker, Cameron Graves, Beka Gochiashvili, Salar Nader, and Evan Garr. They released the album Find Out!. With a new group, The Stanley Clarke Band released the album The Stanley Clarke Band which won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. [31] Their album The Message was released in 2018. [32]


The band's first album Find Out! was recorded at Sunset Sound Studios and was released in 1985 by Sony. With a band composed of Stanley Clarke on bass, Ronald Bruner Jr. on drums, and Ruslan Sirota on keyboards, the Stanley Clarke Band released The Stanley Clarke Band album. It was produced by Lenny White and Stanley Clarke and featured pianist Hiromi." [33]

The album The Stanley Clarke Band won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. [34] Additionally, the track "No Mystery" was nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

The Stanley Clarke Band with Clarke, Bruner Jr., and Sirota released The Message. [35]


Other groups

In 1988, Clarke and drummer Stewart Copeland of the rock band the Police formed Animal Logic with singer-songwriter Deborah Holland. He and Copeland were friends before the Police formed. [10] Copeland appeared on Clarke's album Up (Mack Avenue, 2014). [36]

In 2014 Clarke was invited on stage with Primus during their "Primus and the Chocolate Factory" tour featuring other guest appearances from Stewart Copeland and Danny Carey of Tool to perform the Primus classic "Here Come the Bastards" with Clarke and Les Claypool having a shred bass duel midway.

In 2020 Clarke was invited as a teacher at a Bass Bootcamp hosted by bassist Gerald Veasley. The camp was hosted in Philadelphia where bassists of all ages were taught and featured many educators and professionals such as Richard Waller, Rob Smith, Freekbass, Michael Manring, and more. Unfortunately the camp was delayed and moved to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other jazz groups

In 2005, Clarke toured as Trio! with Béla Fleck and Jean-Luc Ponty. [37] [38] Clarke and Ponty had worked in a trio with guitarist Al Di Meola in 1995 and recorded the album The Rite of Strings . [39] They worked in a trio again in 2012 with guitarist Biréli Lagrène and two years later recorded D-Stringz (Impulse!, 2015). [9]

In 2008, Clarke formed SMV with bassists Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten and recorded the album Thunder. [40] [41] [42]

In 2009 he released Jazz in the Garden , featuring the Stanley Clarke Trio with pianist Hiromi Uehara and drummer Lenny White. The following year he released the Stanley Clarke Band, with Ruslan Sirota on keyboards and Ronald Bruner, Jr. on drums; the album also features Hiromi on piano. [43]

His album Up, released in 2014, has enlisted an all-star cast in his musical ensemble, including former Return to Forever bandmate Chick Corea on piano, with drummer Stewart Copeland (The Police) and guitarist Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic), among others. [44]

In 2018, Clarke released The Message, featuring the new Stanley Clarke Band with Cameron Graves on synthesizers, pianist Beka Gochiashvili, and drummer Mike Mitchell. The album also features rapper/beatboxer Doug E. Fresh and trumpeter Mark Isham. [45] [46]

In 2019, The Stanley Clarke Band has transformed again as Clarke, Cameron Graves, and Beka Gochiashvili were joined by Shariq Tucker on drums, Salar Nader on tabla, and Evan Garr on violin. [47]

Television and movies

Clarke has written scores for television and movies. His first score, for Pee-wee's Playhouse , was nominated for an Emmy Award. He also composed music for the movies Boyz n the Hood , Passenger 57 , and What's Love Got to Do with It , [13] the television programs Lincoln Heights , Waynehead , Static Shock , A Man Called Hawk and Soul Food , and the video for "Remember the Time" by Michael Jackson. [41]

In 2007, Clarke released the DVD Night School: An Evening of Stanley Clarke and Friends, a concert that was recorded in 2002 at the Musicians' Institute in Hollywood. Clarke plays both acoustic and electric bass and is joined by guests Stewart Copeland, Lenny White, Béla Fleck, Shelia E., and Patrice Rushen. [48]

Clarke's TV and movie music contribution can be found in Soul Food (2000–2004), Static Shock (2000–2004), First Sunday (2008), Soul Men (2008), The Best Man Holiday (2013), and Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016). [49] [50] [51] [52]

His latest score composition work was for the documentary film Halston (2019), directed by Frédéric Tcheng. [53] [54] The film tells the extraordinary story of the life and death of the American fashion designer, Roy Halston Frowick.

Record label

In 2010, Clarke founded Roxboro Entertainment Group in Topanga, California. He named it after the high school that he attended in the 1960s. The label's first releases were by guitarist Lloyd Gregory and composer Kennard Ramsey. Roxboro's roster also includes keyboardist Sunnie Paxson, pianist Ruslan Sirota, and pianist Beka Gochiashvili. [55]

Electric bass technique

When playing electric bass, Clarke places his right hand so that his fingers approach the strings much as they would on an upright bass, but rotated through 90 degrees. To achieve this, his forearm lies above and nearly parallel to the strings, while his wrist is hooked downward at nearly a right angle. For lead and solo playing, his fingers partially hook underneath the strings so that when released, the strings snap against the frets, producing a biting percussive attack. In addition to an economical variation on the funky Larry Graham-style slap-n'-pop technique, Clarke also uses downward thrusts of the entire right hand, striking two or more strings from above with his fingernails (examples of this technique include "School Days", "Rock and Roll Jelly", "Wild Dog", and "Danger Street"). [56] [57] [58] [59] Clarke has been playing Alembic short scale basses since 1973. Alembic also manufactures a series Stanley Clarke Signature Bass models.

Personal life

Clarke, like his former bandmate Chick Corea, belongs to the Scientology movement; [60]

Awards and honors

Grammy Awards

1976 No Mystery (Track) Best Jazz Performance by a Group Won
1977 Life is Just A Game (Track) Best Instrumental Arrangement Nominated
1979 Modern Man (Album) Best R&B Instrumental Performance Nominated
1982 The Clarke/Duke Project (Album) Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
1985 Time Exposure (Track) Best R&B Instrumental Performance Nominated
1987 Overjoyed (Track) Best Pop Instrumental Performance Nominated
The Boys Of Johnson Street (Track) Best R&B Instrumental Performance Nominated
2004 Where Is The Love (Track) Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
2011 The Stanley Clarke Band (Album) Best Contemporary Jazz Album Won
No Mystery (Track) Best Pop Instrumental Performance Nominated
2012 Forever (Album) Best Jazz Instrumental Album Won
2015 Last Train To Sanity (Track) Best Instrumental Composition Nominated


Latin Grammy Awards

Clarke received the Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album in 2011 at the 12th Annual Latin Grammy Awards for the album "Forever", along with Chick Corea and Lenny White. [62]

Other honors

Discography and filmography

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chick Corea</span> American musician and composer (1941–2021)

Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea was an American jazz pianist, composer, bandleader and occasional percussionist. His compositions "Spain", "500 Miles High", "La Fiesta", "Armando's Rhumba" and "Windows" are widely considered jazz standards. As a member of Miles Davis's band in the late 1960s, he participated in the birth of jazz fusion. In the 1970s he formed Return to Forever. Along with McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, Corea is considered to have been one of the foremost pianists of the post-John Coltrane era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Return to Forever</span> American jazz fusion group led by Chick Corea

Return to Forever was an American jazz fusion band that was founded by pianist Chick Corea in 1972. The band has had many members, with the only consistent bandmate of Corea's being bassist Stanley Clarke. Along with Weather Report, The Headhunters, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever is often cited as one of the core groups of the jazz-fusion movement of the 1970s. Several musicians, including Clarke, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Al Di Meola, came to prominence through their performances on Return to Forever albums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lenny White</span> American drummer

Leonard "Lenny" White III is an American jazz fusion drummer who was a member of the band Return to Forever led by Chick Corea in the 1970s. White has been called "one of the founding fathers of jazz fusion". He has won three Grammy awards, two nominations and one Latin Grammy.

<i>Return to Forever</i> (Chick Corea album) 1972 studio album by Chick Corea

Return to Forever is a jazz fusion album by Chick Corea recorded over two days in February 1972 and released on ECM September that same year—Corea's fourth release for the label. It is the debut of a quintet featuring singer Flora Purim, flautist/saxophonist Joe Farrell, bassist Stanley Clarke and percussionist Airto Moreira, who would go on to record under the name Return to Forever.

<i>Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy</i> 1973 studio album by Return to Forever

Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy is a studio album by American jazz fusion band Return to Forever. It was released in October of 1973 by Polydor. It was the first album not to feature Flora Purim, Airto and Joe Farrell, and marked a shift away from the largely acoustic fusion they created. Drummer Lenny White and guitarist Bill Connors make their first appearances with the group. Connors would leave shortly after the albums release.

<i>No Mystery</i> 1975 studio album by Return to Forever

No Mystery (1975) is a studio album by jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever, and the second featuring the quartet of Chick Corea, guitarist Al Di Meola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White.

<i>Where Have I Known You Before</i> 1974 studio album by Return to Forever

Where Have I Known You Before is a studio album by Return to Forever, the first featuring guitarist Al Di Meola, and the second since leader Chick Corea switched to mostly electric instrumentation, playing music heavily influenced by progressive rock, funk and classical.

<i>Romantic Warrior</i> 1976 studio album by Return to Forever

Romantic Warrior is a studio album by the American jazz fusion band Return to Forever, their first recorded for Columbia Records, after releasing their previous four albums on Polydor. In February of 1976, the group retreated to Caribou Ranch near Nederland, Colorado to record. It was the first album to remove the "featuring Chick Corea" credit from beside the band name on the album cover. Despite the music being more dense and avant-garde than the funkier No Mystery, it remains the band's highest selling album with over 500,000 copies sold in the US alone.

<i>Light as a Feather</i> 1973 studio album by Return to Forever

Light as a Feather is technically the first studio album by jazz band Return to Forever led by keyboardist Chick Corea. It features saxophonist/flautist Joe Farrell, bassist Stanley Clarke, vocalist Flora Purim and her husband, drummer/percussionist Airto Moreira, who all performed on Corea’s previous album Return to Forever, from which the group took its name.

Bill Connors is an American jazz guitarist who was a member of Chick Corea's band Return to Forever. After leaving Return to Forever, he recorded three acoustic albums and then three electric albums as a leader/soloist.

<i>Children of Forever</i> 1973 studio album by Stanley Clarke

Children of Forever is the debut album by jazz fusion bassist Stanley Clarke. It was recorded in December 1972, and was released in 1973 by Polydor Records. On the album, Clarke is joined by vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Andy Bey, flutist Arthur Webb, guitarist Pat Martino, keyboardist Chick Corea, and drummer Lenny White.

<i>Return to the Seventh Galaxy: The Anthology</i> 1996 compilation album by Return to Forever featuring Chick Corea

Return to the 7th Galaxy: The Anthology is a 1996 compilation of 1972-1976 recordings made by bands assembled by Chick Corea under the name Return to Forever. The collection includes tracks from the albums Light as a Feather, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before and No Mystery, together with four previously unreleased tracks.

<i>Captain Marvel</i> (album) 1974 studio album by Stan Getz

Captain Marvel is a 1974 jazz album by saxophonist Stan Getz recorded on March 3, 1972 and released on Columbia two years later. The quintet features pianist Chick Corea, who composed most of the material, bassist Stanley Clarke, Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira and drummer Tony Williams.

<i>Returns</i> (album) Album by fusion band Return to Forever

Returns is a live album by American fusion band Return to Forever. Released in 2009 by Eagle Records, it is the first recording by the band after a hiatus of 32 years. Also in 2009 a video recording of the band's live performances from the "Returns" tour at Montreux, Switzerland and Clearwater, Florida was released by Eagle Rock Entertainment as Returns: Live at Montreux 2008.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ruslan Sirota</span> Ukrainian-born American musician

Ruslan Sirota is a Grammy Award winning pianist, composer, and producer.

<i>The Stanley Clarke Band</i> 2010 studio album by the Stanley Clarke Band

The Stanley Clarke Band is an album by the Stanley Clarke Band led by jazz bassist Stanley Clarke. It was released by Heads Up Record in June 2010 and was produced by Clarke and Lenny White. Band members include Ruslan Sirota on keyboard, Ronald Bruner, Jr. on drums and featured performer Hiromi on piano.

<i>The Mothership Returns</i> 2012 live album by Return to Forever

The Mothership Returns is a live two CD/single DVD set by the fusion band Return to Forever. Released 18 June 2012 by Eagle Rock Entertainment, it documents music performed during the 2011 tour, for which Return to Forever was expanded to a quintet with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and new members Jean-Luc Ponty on violin and Frank Gambale on guitar. The album peaked #6 in the 2012 and 2013 Jazz Album charts.

<i>Forever</i> (Corea, Clarke & White album) 2011 live album / Studio album by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White

Forever is a double CD album of live acoustic recordings recorded in California, Tokyo and Seattle in 2009 by the Return to Forever pianist Chick Corea, bass player Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White and studio rehearsals with guests Jean-Luc Ponty, Bill Connors and Chaka Khan. It was released on the Concord label I 2011.

"500 Miles High" is a jazz fusion song by American musician Chick Corea and Return to Forever. Composed by Corea with lyrics by Neville Potter, it was recorded in 1972 for the group's second album, Light as a Feather, which was released in 1973. Brazilian singer Flora Purim provides the vocal and the piece became her signature song and a jazz standard.


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