Stanley Clarke makes damn good music with new band (a post-grammy review repost by J. Hayes)
As No Depression has one of the most progressive music listening readership’s on the web, I will sometimes go back and post something from a “less americana-centric” piece that I have done previously for another site, if I think ND readers will enjoy. In this case, with this album’s recent Grammy win, it felt worth it. So, dear reader, here you have it:
originally written for examiner.com
Stanley Clarke‘s latest release is credited to The Stanley Clarke Band. This is relevant because the music, although unmistakable Clarke, is clearly influenced by the innovation of the fresh group of musicians who support him on this collection. The Stanley Clarke Band is essentially Clarke himself on bass, Ronald Bruner Jr. on Drums, Ruslan Sirota (credited simply as “Ruslan”) on electric piano and a host of guests, most notably piano virtuoso, current jazz golden-child and recent Clarke collaborator, Hiromi, whose name also and conspicuously graces the cover in her signature font (and the inside of the booklet and the CD…alright we get it).
Allow me to address two items.
First and most importantly a definitive statement: this is an album of great music. This is not smooth jazz, it’s not straight ahead and it’s not really fusion. This is what I believe jazz always should to be: progressive, improvisational, sophisticated music influenced by the experiences, ears, hearts and spirits of the artists making it. Stanley Crouch, call me if you think otherwise. I’d be more than happy to talk you through it.
Secondly, I’d like to make a confession: I have long been a highly vocal critic of Ruslan Sirota, but with one gallant stroke he has won me over. Throughout the album Ruslan displays seasoned and sophisticated use of space and harmony while relaxing into an energy and vibrance appropriate for a young artist. He’s not trying too hard. He is just playing and that’s the same thing that made the early Herbie Hancock collaborations with Miles Davis so successful. Those who know me well will be surprised to hear me say I am genuinely looking forward to Ruslan’s forthcoming solo effort.
Nowhere is the strength of the aforementioned collaborations more evident that on the album’s opening track “Soldier.” Penned by Ruslan and produced with Clarke, “Soldier” is a steam-locomotive, moving from a classic, electric-era Clarke bass melody to a thrashing Keith Jarrett-cum-Coldplay chorus complete with raggedy guitars and rich piano voicings.
Clarke shines on “Bass Folks Song No. 6” and “Bass Folk Song No. 10” that reflect his remarkable ability to take the inspiration of Larry Graham’s thumpin’ and pluckin’ style into a new compositional stratosphere. On “I Wanna Play For You Too,” Clarke loosely revisits his 1988 vocoder classic, with substantially more funk than it’s previous incarnation. Horns blasting straight out of 1972, Clarke doesn’t forget that ultimately bass is all about that groove.
Look for the white cover with a striking photo of Clarke and his signature bass (shot and designed by Steven Parke, longtime art director/photographer for Prince) next time you’re at the store, or go preview the album on iTunes. Whether you’re a ardent fan of Clarke’s work or you don’t understand a single reference I’ve made, Stanley Clarke makes damn good music. And really, what more can you ask for?
Live Well & Listen Closely,
and become a fan on facebook
photography by Steve Parke www.steveparke.com