Recently I did a post about a Chick Corea album called Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. Those of you with long memories will recall that way back in the ’70’s when fusion was popular, there was a great band called Return to Forever.
Clarke was the bassist in that band pretty much during its existence. (All signs point to the band still being together but their last tour was 2011 and their last Facebook page update in 2015.) I never saw Return to Forever but we did see Stanley Clarke so many years ago I don’t even want to say when it was.
So when I found out he was touring and coming to my area I jumped on getting a ticket. The Tupelo is up in New Hampshire and is maybe a 400-person capacity club with an odd, tables-in-front, theater-seating-in-back arrangement. I managed to get a table reasonably close to the front.
Clarke currently has a four-piece band which, in addition to himself on double and electric bass, includes Mike Mitchell on drums, Cameron Graves on keyboards and from Tbilisi, Georgia, keyboardist/pianist Beka Gochiashvili. (Yes, two keys. One guy is more synth-player than piano per se.) Personally, I would have traded one of those for a sax.
So how were they? Well, how could they not be awesome? Stanley Clarke is one of the greatest players ever to pick up any instrument in any genre of music. And he does not play with third-rate players. (I’m not a big fan of describing how bands play together, preferring to let the music speak for itself.)
Interestingly, none of these guys appears to be much older than 25 or so. I don’t know if Clarke likes their energy or if they’re just less expensive, probably both. The ticket cost me $65 USD and would likely be twice that if he was touring with his peers.
But that aside, the level of musicianship among these guys was astonishing. I didn’t capture all that (but see below.) However, I did manage to capture a video of Stanley doing a solo on the double bass. If this is your instrument, start woodshedding:
As to the band dynamic, I had a second video of their funky encore but my phone ate it. So I will instead show you this video of Clarke’s band from last year. The drummer and featured keyboard player are different but this is what is was like when Stanley picked up his electric bass. Chick Corea shows up at about 3:54, so blown away by the drummer he has to come out and high-five him.
If I had any qualms at all about the show, it’s that I could have used a little more band interplay, a little less soloing. I know that’s what they do in jazz. I’ve played in a jazz band. But by the third bass and/or drum solo, I was pretty much done with that. But again, minor quibble.
BTW, I found a video online of the exact band I saw the other night. It’s over an hour long and so you’ll get a really good idea of what I saw and heard if you listen to it or even dip into it a little bit. It’s from a German jazz festival.
The Tupelo date was Stanley’s last gig of the year. I have no reason to think the 66-year old Mr. Clarke won’t be back next year. If this is your cup of tea, do not hesitate to go see him and his band.