Stanley Clarke: Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra, Parts 1-4
Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra, Parts 1-4
Stanley Clarke (bass, Maestro bass synthesizer)
Journey to Love (Epic EK 36974)
Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, David Taylor, Peter Gordon, Allen Rubin, Tom Malone, John Clark, Earl Chapin, Wilmer Wise (brass section).
Composed by Stanley Clarke.
Recorded: New York, 1975
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Even more so than his phenomenal contemporary Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke was the fusion genre's first electric bass superstar. This didn't make Clarke better or more important. The argument as to who was better will go on forever, and is pointless, really. Both players set standards that are still in place. But there were reasons for Clarke's greater popularity. His bass sound, even when playing rapid-fire runs, was smoother than Jaco's. This stylistic and audio difference helped Clarke introduce fans to the idea that the electric bass could be an important melodic instrument. Clarke was also a better-rounded composer than Jaco, so his tunes were more accessible. Additionally, after leaving Chick Corea's Return to Forever, Clarke made some wise business and music decisions that allowed him control over his music and those he played it with. On this album alone, he was able to bring in Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck and George Duke.
"Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra" is a full-blown bass concerto. While this piece is classical in the formal sense of movements, it is anything but classical in a musical sense. Part 1 is the slow movement. Hand bells, acoustic bass and piano establish a gentle tableau. Part 2 is definitely a fast movement! Clarke blazes a path. Duke is outstanding on synthesizer. Sancious wails on electric guitar. The full horn section joins in on an explosion of the movement's thematic riffs. The third part is propelled by a fast Gadd shuffle leading to a last short and sad movement gently punctuated by a wistful melodic undertone. In the context of such a written-out piece, improvisation is at the highest levels. The players are all outstanding. But, in the end, it is the composer's skill that stands out.
By the way, Stanley Clarke's smooth bass sound would eventually get the best of him. He lost his initial fan base, but attracted a larger one in the mainstream. In the last couple of years, however, there seems to be hope that jazz and jazz rock fans will once again hear the Stanley Clarke we once knew. In fact, at this writing, he is planning an upcoming Return to Forever reunion tour. While it is hard to criticize such a talented musician for taking advantage of financial opportunities, I am glad to see the artistic direction of some of his latest projects.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky