The Stanley Clarke Band
(Ronnie Scotts. 14th November 2014. First show of four, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Joe Stoddart)
In the UK touring his latest album ‘Up’, Stanley Clarke has been one of the leading lights of jazz bass since arriving on the scene in the early 1970’s. Having begun playing with Joe Henderson at the age of 20, Clarke has now taken over the mantle of the mentor and is accompanied by a band featuring 18 year old Georgian pianist Beka Gochiashvili and 20 year old Texan Mike Mitchell on drums alongside keyboard player Cameron Graves.
The band kicked off with ’Last Train To Sanity’ from ’Up’, a frenetic piece which immediately set about underling the various virtuosities on display, Clarke’s incredibly dextrous finger work on the double bass underpinned excellently by Mitchell’s powerful drumming. A bass solo introduced ’Brazilian Love Affair’ which has been re-recorded for ’Up’ in memory of Clarke’s long term collaborator and friend, the sadly departed George Duke. The playing was in a similar vein to the first tune, Clarke’s rhythmic figures keeping things tight under a fantastic piano solo from Gochiashvili.
The mood was changed for Joe Henderson’s ‘Black Narcissus’ seguing into ’Song To John’, Clarke’s tribute to John Coltrane from his 1975 album Journey To Love. The latter contained another excellent piano solo by Gochiashvili, albeit one that could be said to have carried on past its peak.
The band stayed with some older material with ’No Mystery’ from Return To Forever’s 1975 album of the same name. It featured a spectacular bass solo cadenza utilizing pinched harmonics and double stops among a barrage of flawless technique to really highlight what an incredible bass player Clarke is.
The electric bass finally got an outing on encore School Days, his usual show ender. Undoubtedly his most well-known composition, the band performs it pretty much as it appeared on record in 1976 (bar a short introduction), raising a huge response from the sold out crowd who have witnessed a bass masterclass.
Last Train To Sanity
Brazilian Love Affair
Song To John
Encore: School Days