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 68)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres Jazz, jazz fusion, funk, rock, R&B
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsDouble bass, bass guitar
Years active1966–present
Labels Nemperor, Epic, Heads Up, Mack Avenue, Elektra
Associated acts Return to Forever, the New Barbarians, George Duke, Animal Logic, Trio!, SMV

Stanley Clarke (born June 30, 1951) is an American bassist, film 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]

A Stanley Clarke electric bass is permanently on display at The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. [6] [7] [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 in Philadelphia. [8] His mother sang opera around the house, belonged to a church choir, and encouraged him to study music. [9] He started on accordion, then tried violin. [10] 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. [11] He took lessons on double bass at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, beginning with five years of classical music. 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. [9]

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 a merge with the Philadelphia College of Art) and after graduating moved to New York City in 1971. [12] His recording debut was with Curtis Fuller. He worked with Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders, then in 1972 with Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, and Art Blakey, followed by Gil Evans, Mel Lewis, and Horace Silver. [10]

Return to Forever (band)

Clarke intended to become the first black musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra until he met jazz pianist Chick Corea. [13] In 1973, he and Corea founded the band Return to Forever. The first edition of Return to Forever performed primarily Latin-oriented music. 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. Their second album, Light as a Feather (1973), was released by Polydor and included the song "Spain". [14] [15]

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 then rerecorded (the first recording, featuring Gadd on drums, was never released and has since disappeared).

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. [16] For helping to bring the bass guitar to the front of the band, Clarke cites Jaco Pastorius, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, and Larry Graham. [17]

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. [17] 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. [18]

Clarke's second self-titled album Stanley Clarke (1974) featured Tony Williams on Drums, Bill Connors - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Jan Hammer - Synthesizer [Moog], Electric Piano, Organ, 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) [19] and Modern Man (1978). [20]

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. [17] [21]

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. [22] 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", [23] [24] which became a Top 20 pop hit. They reunited for tours during the 1990s [10] and the 2000s. [23]

Clarke joined fellow bassist Paul McCartney in 1981 to play bass on McCartney's 1982 & 1983 releases Tug of War [25] & Pipes of Peace . [26] [27] [28]

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. [9] Copeland appeared on Clarke's album Up (Mack Avenue, 2014). [29]

Other jazz groups

In 2005, Clarke toured as Trio! with Béla Fleck and Jean-Luc Ponty. [30] [31] Clarke and Ponty had worked in a trio with guitarist Al Di Meola in 1995 and recorded the album The Rite of Strings . [32] They worked in a trio again in 2012 with guitarist Biréli Lagrène and two years later recorded D-Stringz (Impulse!, 2015). [8]

In 2008, Clarke formed SMV with bassists Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten and recorded the album Thunder. [33] [34]

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. [35]

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. [36]

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. [37] [38]

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. [39]

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 , [12] the television programs Lincoln Heights and Soul Food, and the video for "Remember the Time" by Michael Jackson. [34]

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. [40]

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). [41] [42] [43] [44]

His latest score composition work was for the documentary film Halston (2019), directed by Frédéric Tcheng. [45] [46] 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. [47]

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"). [48] [49] [50] [51]

Awards and honors

Discography and filmography

Related Research Articles

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Al Di Meola American guitarist

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Return to Forever American jazz fusion group led by Chick Corea

Return to Forever is an American jazz fusion band that was founded by pianist Chick Corea in 1971. The band has had many members, with the only consistent bandmate of Corea's being bassist Stanley Clarke. 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.

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

Return to Forever is a jazz fusion album by Chick Corea, simultaneously functioning as the debut album by the band of the same name. Unlike later albums by the group, it was released by the ECM label and produced by Manfred Eicher. The album was not released in the USA until 1975. The record is often considered one of the classic albums in electric jazz.

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

Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy is the third studio album by American jazz fusion band Return to Forever. It was released in October 1973 by Polydor. Flora Purim, Joe Farrell, and Airto Moreira were replaced by drummer Lenny White and guitarist Bill Connors.

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

No Mystery (1975) is the fifth studio album by jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever.

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

Where Have I Known You Before is the fourth album by the band Return to Forever and the second since leader Chick Corea changed the line-up and moved to electric instrumentation, playing jazz fusion influenced by progressive rock.

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

Romantic Warrior is the sixth studio album by the American jazz fusion band Return to Forever, released in 1976 by Columbia Records. After releasing their previous album, No Mystery (1975), their fourth for Polydor Records, the group moved to Columbia and retreated to Caribou Ranch near Nederland, Colorado to record their next album. It was also their first to be credited solely to Return to Forever, removing the "featuring Chick Corea" moniker. The album is more avant-garde and less funky than No Mystery, and remains the band's highest selling album with over 500,000 copies sold in the US.

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

Light as a Feather is the second studio album by jazz fusion band Return to Forever led by pianist Chick Corea.

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.

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

Return to the 7th Galaxy: The Anthology (1996) is an anthology of recordings made from 1972 to 1975 by bands assembled by Chick Corea under the name Return to Forever. The album is a compilation of tracks from the four Polydor studio albums, Light as a Feather (1973), Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), Where Have I Known You Before (1974) and No Mystery (1975) together with four previously unreleased live tracks.

<i>Echoes of an Era</i> 1982 studio album by Chaka Khan et al.

Echoes of an Era is an album by American R&B/jazz singer Chaka Khan, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, released in 1982 on Elektra Records.

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

Returns is a live album by the 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 Return to Forever – Returns: Live at Montreux 2008.

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

The Stanley Clarke Band is an album 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 Hiromi on piano. The album was awarded the 2011 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and the track "No Mystery" was nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The Guardian gave the album three stars, calling it a "return to a funk repertoire reminiscent of Clarke's roots in Chick Corea electric bands", while Allmusic gave it a score of three-and-a-half stars. It is also the second Stanley Clarke album to be credited to The Stanley Clarke Band after his 1985 album Find Out!.

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

The Mothership Returns is a live two CD set and one DVD by the fusion band Return to Forever. Released 18 June 2012 by Eagle Rock Entertainment, the double CD set documents the music performed during the 2011 tour. Return to Forever was expanded for this tour to quintet and featured keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, drummer Lenny White, guitarist Frank Gambale and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. 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.


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