Saturday, January 22, 2011

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
A Stanley Clarke sampler

Today, we shine our video spotlight on bassist Stanley Clarke, who will be back in St. Louis to play a duo gig with pianist Hiromi Uehara starting Wednesday, February 2 through Saturday, February 5 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Clarke has been in St. Louis a couple of times recently, teaming up with keyboardist George Duke in 2006 at the St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival, and during Return to Forever's reunion tour, which played the Fox Theatre in 2009. Both of these shows featured Clarke playing electric bass, an instrument he helped re-define during his rise to fame in the 1970s.

The first video up top features a recent performance of Clarke's signature song "School Days," which served as the title track to the 1976 album that cemented Clarke's status as a trendsetter. This version, from the Northsea Jazz Festival, is undated, but probably comes from the mid-2000s. Down below, though, we go all the way back in the day with our second clip, which features a bushy-haired Clarke working out on his song "Hot Fun" at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival.

As much fun as it is to watch Clarke do his electrified thing on those well-known tunes, the gig at the Bistro will feature Clarke's acoustic bass playing, not his electric work. So, our third clip is an excerpt from a duo gig Clarke did with Hiromi - who customarily goes by her first name only - in June 2010 at the Dakota in Minneapolis, and features both players showing off their considerable chops without amplification. While this performance feels somewhat overstuffed for my taste, I suspect that it's a fairly representative example of what they'll be doing at the Bistro in a couple of weeks.

To balance the scales a bit, the fourth video features a Hiromi/Clarke performance that I liked a bit more. It's from a 2009 acoustic trio gig at the Dakota with Clarke and drummer Lenny White, and features the pianist delivering a relatively concise, hard-boppish solo on "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" as Clarke supports her with fast walking lines underneath. Personally, I doubt if I'll ever become a big fan of Hiromi's "more is more" style of pianism, but as always, dear readers, your mileage may vary. For more on the Clarke/Hiromi collaboration, check out this 2009 interview with the bassist.

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