Review- UP By The Stanley Clarke Band

UP
The Stanley Clarke Band
Sept. 12, 2014

Rating: 5 Guitars out of 5   guitar-rating-5

UP is the latest CD from the baddest bass player on the planet, Stanley Clarke. This is the first new recording by the Stanley Clarke Band since 2010’s The Stanley Clarke Band disc. The acclaimed bassist extraordinaire has hand-picked an all-star list of guest musicians to play with The SCB. According to the official Stanley Clarke website, the four-time Grammy winner is the “Liberator of the Electric and Acoustic Basses.” His UP album soundly supports this sobriquet.

The first song by The SCB is “Pop Virgil,” a rousing musical manifesto featuring some super funky guitar licks borrowed from James Brown’s jazzy soul classic, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.” Stanley introduces the song in his legendary bass style, along with some hand-clapping. This lively track, featuring Paul Jackson Jr.‘s rocking guitar work delivered with gusto, had me dancing across the room to crank “up” the stereo volume. Greg Phillinganes’ keyboards contribute to the track’s fun hip mix.

“Last Train to Sanity” evokes a majestic Return To Forever feel, with choir voicings and strings by the Harlem String Quartet. The moving train motif gives dynamic force to the song. The title track “Up” continues in the driving rhythmic groove established by The SCB on “Pop Virgil” and “Last Train.” The fine guitar playing of Joe Walsh (James Gang, The Eagles) nicely complements Stanley Clarke’s energetic bass. The horns are blowing loud and proud on this track, and the drum work of Stewart Copeland (The Police) is solid throughout the song. Stanley includes the popular song “Brazilian Love Affair” as an on-going dedication to his dear friend and recording partner, the great George Duke. This swinging samba classic written by the late Mr. Duke, a San Rafael native, puts a trip to Rio de Janeiro during Carnival on my own personal Bucket List.

“Bass Folk Song #13: Mingus” is a short, somber acoustic interlude dedicated to the acoustic bass genius, Charles Mingus. The creative Mr. Clarke sprinkles two other solo Bass Folk Songs through the album, and each one features a different theme. On “I Have Something To Tell You Tonight,” The SCB conjures up a cool evening walk home with your significant other.

Stanley Clarke dedicates the mellow jazz song “Trust”  to his daughter, Natasha. The SCB then kicks up the pace on “Gotham City,”  and the band is cooking on medium. Now it’s time for the Stanley Clarke Band to turn up the funky heat with the popular fusion masterpiece “School Days,” featuring Stanley’s distinctive bass lines. Jimmy Herring seriously works out here on electric guitar. Originally recorded almost 40 years ago, “School Days” still sounds robust and inspirational with this fresh version.

The graceful “La Cancion de Sofia,” written for Mr. Clarke’s wife Sofia, showcases Stanley with Chick Corea (Return To Forever) in an acoustic duet. After raising the roof and the heat on the previous track, the soothing dialog between these two influential artists on the last song is an appropriate way to close out the exciting UP album. For further information, go to www.mackavenue.com.

UP emphatically confirms Stanley Clarke’s continuous crusade for musical liberation through his prodigious talent and spirit of innovation. We can all enjoy this sonic movement.

Personnel: Stanley Clarke (Alembic electric, tenor and acoustic bass and vocals) Natasha Agrama (vocal choir), Mariela Arredondo (vocal choir), Gerry Brown (drums), Ronald Bruner, Jr. (drums), Lenny Castro (percussion), Stewart Copeland (drums), Chick Corea (acoustic piano), Phil Davis (synthesizers, keyboards), Beka Gochiashvili (acoustic piano), Gary Grant (trumpet), Jimmy Herring (guitar), Jerry Hey (horn arrangement), Dan Higgins (tenor and baritone saxophones, tenor solo), Paul Jackson Jr. (guitar), Nick Mancini (marimba), Andy Martin (trombone), Mike Mitchell (drums), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), Patrice Quinn (back ground vocals), John Robinson (drums), Ruslan Sirota (acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers), Jessica Vautor (vocals), Joe Walsh (guitar), Kamasi Washington (saxophone), Doug Webb (saxophone), Harlem String Quartet: Ilmar Gavilan (violin), Melissa White (violin), Jaime Amador (viola), Matthew Zalkind (cello)

Track Listing:

  1. Pop Virgil
  2. Last Train to Sanity
  3. Up
  4. Brazilian Love Affair (Dedicated to George Duke)
  5. Bass Folk Song #13: Mingus
  6. I Have Something To Tell You Tonight
  7. Trust (Dedicated to Nana)
  8. Bass Folk Song #7: Tradition
  9. Gotham City
  10. Bass Folk Song #14: Dance of the Giant Hummingbird/Bass Folk Song #15: Eleuthera Island
  11. School Days
  12. La Cancion de Sofia (A Song for Sofia)