Last updated January 15, 2008 10:33 a.m. PT
A moment with ... Stanley Clarke, jazz musician
Stanley Clarke was barely out of his teens when, in 1971, he helped pioneer a new form of jazz called "fusion" as the bassist in Return to Forever.
Since then, he has played with musicians from all over the map, from Keith Richards and Jeff Beck to George Duke and Billy Cobham.
The award-winning bassist also has composed music for more than 50 films.
Clarke brings his latest band, Ruslan Sirota (keyboards), Mads Tolling (violin) and Ronald Brunner (drums), to Jazz Alley this week from Thursday to Sunday.
We hit on several subjects, including his latest album, "The Toys of Men," in a telephone conversation before his sound check in San Francisco last week.
On "The Toys of Men" suite:
I play with an Israeli keyboard player, a violin player from Denmark and a drummer from Compton. One guy is pro-American, the other guy's not. One guy is anti-Israeli, the other guy loves Israel, and one guy is from the ghetto. When I brought "The Toys of Men" to them, the one thing they could all agree on was the subject matter, which explores the things that happen in the world that are based in violence. The music goes back to the kind of writing I did in the '70s. I have been planning a "Return to Forever" reunion for the last two years, so that way of putting music together and playing was on my mind.
Everybody and their mother has tried to conquer the place, so we wanted to write something very peaceful and serene. The keyboardist put some chords together, and I worked it out in the studio. I used an acoustic bass guitar, an instrument that most players don't usually record with. You have to be right there with every note.
On the bass:
When I made my first solo record, I was one of about five bass players with a record deal. Now there are thousands of records made by bass players. Because of that, the way the bass is played is different. It's only natural because, as the leader, you can take liberties and experiment with it.
On the inspiration of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme":
Jimmy Garrison was a bass player with hardly any technique, but was such a great musician that the little things he did with the fifths created a whole style of music for me. To this day, I am amazed at the people from various walks of life who cite it as their desert island record. I was playing with McCoy Tyner at Blue Note about a year ago, and Patti Smith stopped me on the way to the dressing room. We started talking, and she said, "Yeah, McCoy's the last of that great group. 'A Love Supreme' is my number one album.'"
On this summer's "Return to Forever" reunion:
Our last reunion was all new music, so this time we are going back and playing all the old music exactly the way it was played originally. The improvisations will be different, but the manuscripts will be adhered to.
On his next project:
I'm planning a record and tour with Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten. You might imagine that, going to see a trio of bass players, you'll come in with earplugs and leave with blood coming down the side of your head, but it won't be anything like that. We are hoping it will be another great day for the bass.
-- Bill White