Bassist Stanley Clarke has long been one of jazz's leading lights. The Philadelphia-born musician and composer's career, which flourishes to the present day, has recently been anthologized by Cherry Red's Robinsongs label. The Definitive Collection concentrates on the period of 1975-1990 during which time he was recording for the Nemperor and Epic labels as a solo artist.
Philadelphia-born Clarke first rose to prominence showcasing his bass wizardry as part of Chick Corea's fusion jazz collective Return to Forever. While performing in Return to Forever, however, Clarke made his first steps as a solo artist. Robinsongs' collection begins with his third album and second for Nemperor, 1975's Journey to Love. Clarke's desire to reach a larger audience while not sacrificing his musical values was evident in the varied material on the LP, from the epic "Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra" (of which two parts of four are reprised on this collection) to the title track, which featured George Duke sharing vocals with Clarke, and Jeff Beck contributing guitar. The funky fusion of Journey to Love resonated across the U.S. Billboard charts, going to No. 3 Jazz, No. 8 R&B, and No. 34 Pop. It solidified Clarke's place as not only a top-flight musician but also a composer.
Clarke continued to build his cross-genre appeal throughout the records that followed for Nemporer and Epic, including the immediate follow-up (and perhaps his most enduring album), School Days. Like its predecessor produced by David Bowie collaborator Ken Scott, School Days applied Clarke's liquid bass lines to funk, rock, and Latin grooves; it reached No. 2 Jazz as well as the same impressive R&B and Pop plateaus as Journey.
The Definitive Collection more-or-less chronologically proceeds through each of Clarke's subsequent albums including 1978's Modern Man, featuring the Grammy Award-nominated title track as well as the scorching "Rock 'n' Roll Jelly," which boasted appearances by Jeff Beck and his bandmate in supergroup Beck Bogert Appice, Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice. Chanteuse Dee Dee Bridgewater lent her vocals to the title track of 1979's double-album I Wanna Play for You (blending live and studio performances). From the same album, Freddie Hubbard lent his flugelhorn to "Together Again."
The second disc of Robinsongs' anthology also chronicles some of Clarke's most enduring collaborations, including selections from three joint albums with keyboardist-composer and fellow fusion pioneer George Duke; one track from his CTI Records supergroup Fuse One; two cuts from the debut album of The Stanley Clarke Band; and songs with Shalamar vocalist Howard Hewett and pianist Herbie Hancock.
The 32 tracks on this Clarke sampler deftly showcase how Clarke put the fuse in fusion, seamlessly blending jazz, R&B, funk, rock, and soul into a sound of his own. Charles Waring supplies five pages of informative liner notes, but unfortunately, the collection lacks musician and producer credits as well as discography (you can find source information below). Stanley Clarke's musical world has also encompassed varied production work and even film scoring, but The Definitive Collection (remastered by Alan Wilson) puts the spotlight on the music on which he made his considerable name. It's available now at the links below!
Stanley Clarke, The Definitive Collection (Cherry Red/Robinsongs ROBIN16CDD, 2017) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Journey to Love
- Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra, Part 1
- Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra, Part 2
- Silly Putty
- School Days
- The Dancer
- Hot Fun
- More Hot Fun
- Modern Man
- Rock 'n' Roll Jelly
- I Wanna Play for You
- Together Again
- Jamaican Boy
- Danger Street
- All Hell Broke Loose
- Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand
- We Supply
- Grand Prix - Fuse One
- Never Judge a Cover by Its Book - Stanley Clarke and George Duke
- Wild Dog - Stanley Clarke and George Duke
- Sweet Baby - Stanley Clarke and George Duke
- Straight to the Top
- Heroes - Stanley Clarke and George Duke
- Heaven Sent You - Stanley Clarke and Howard Hewett
- Time Exposure
- What If I Should Fall in Love - The Stanley Clarke Band
- Find Out - The Stanley Clarke Band
- Hideaway - Stanley Clarke and Herbie Hancock
- Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
- I Want to Play for Ya
- Mothership Connection (12-Inch Mix) - Stanley Clarke and George Duke
- Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)
CD 1, Tracks 1-4 from Journey to Love, Nemperor NE 433, 1975
CD 1, Tracks 5-7 from School Days, Nemperor NE 439, 1976
CD 1, Tracks 8-10 from Modern Man, Nemperor JZ 35303, 1978
CD 1, Tracks 11-13 from I Wanna Play for You, Nemperor KZ2 35680, 1979
CD 1, Tracks 14-16 & CD 2, Track 1 from Rocks, Pebbles and Sand, Epic JZ 36506, 1980
CD 2, Track 2 from Fuse One, Fuse One, CTI 9003, 1980
CD 2, Tracks 3-5 from The Clarke/Duke Project, Epic FE 36918, 1981
CD 2, Track 6 from Let Me Know You, Epic BL 38086, 1982
CD 2, Track 7 from The Clarke/Duke Project II, Epic FE 38934, 1983
CD 2, Tracks 8-9 from Time Exposure, Epic FE 38688, 1984
CD 2, Tracks 10-11 from The Stanley Clarke Band, Find Out, Epic FE 40040, 1985
CD 2, Track 12 from Hideaway, Epic FE 40275, 1985
CD 2, Tracks 13-14 & 16 from If This Bass Could Only Talk, Portrait RK 40923, 1988
CD 2, original version of Track 15 from Stanley Clarke & George Duke, 3, Epic EK 46012, 1990
regan judson says
Great write up Joe! I am ordering this one ASAP!
Peter J Haas says
Ugh, this collection seems to ignore his second solo album — his best IMO. And it’s also missing his best pop song, “Tryin’ and Crying” which includes vocals from Napoleon Murphy Brock. One would do better to dig out individual albums.