Stanley Clarke, Innovative Liberator Of The Bass.

Written by | News, Vinyl, Vinyl Corner

Born today, June-30, 1951 in Philadelphia, bassist Stanley Clarke will celebrate his 72nd birthday! Clarke started out playing accordion however quickly changed to violin, then cello before moving to the double bass as well as the electric bass guitar, which he played in rhythm-and-blues and rock bands in high school.

Prior to graduating, Clarke left school and went to New York in 1970 to find work in jazz, giving up his earlier plans to become a classical musician where he played double bass and electric bass with Pharoah Sanders (1971), toured and recorded with Stan Getz (1972), recorded with Dexter Gordon and Art Blakey (both 1972), and also worked with Gil Evans, Mel Lewis, and Horace Silver. In 1971 he spent a year with Joe Henderson where he met Chick Corea. Shortly afterwards he became a founding member of Corea’s group Return To Forever recording eight albums with the band and from this time on, concentrated on playing the electric instrument. After leaving in 1977 Clarke initiated several projects as a leader (including the classic “School Days” album), playing with both jazz musicians and rock groups with equal success.

Clarke was influenced early on by the playing of Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, and Ron Carter, and also by the work of the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and the soul and funk singer James Brown. He is is well known for his rapid, precise, bass lines, and for his aggressive slapping technique producing a stinging attack and a sound rich in treble frequencies which enlivens his syncopated phrases. His virtuosity on acoustic and electric bass propelled his instrument from the bottom to the top. The classic Clarke right-hand posture has his fingers approaching the strings much as they would on an upright bass, but rotated through 90 degrees. To achieve this, his forearm lies above and nearly parallel to the strings, while his wrist is hooked downward at nearly a right angle. For lead and solo purposes, his fingers partially hook underneath the strings so that when he releases, the strings snap against the frets, producing a biting percussive attack. In addition to an economical variation on the Larry Graham-style pop-n’-slap technique, Clarke also uses downward thrusts of the entire right hand, striking two or more strings from above with his fingernails (examples include “School Days,” “Rock and Roll Jelly,” “Wild Dog,” and “Danger Street”).

“You grab it, slide around on it, and feel it with your hands,” Clarke once said of his signature instrument. He went on to say, “You slap, pull, thump, pluck, and pop, and you get yourself into this hypnotic state if you’re lucky. It’s beyond conscious, where you’re not thinking because you’re just a conduit for this rhythm, from wherever it comes from, from God to you and this instrument, through a cord and a speaker.”

A whole generation of bassists — from Dave Holland with Miles Davis to Miroslav Vitous and Jaco Pastorius with Weather Report and Rick Laird with the Mahavishnu Orchestra — helped to wed the sophistication of Sixties post-bop with the power of arena-scale rock however it was Stanley Clarke who truly defined the role of the fusion bass god. “Before I came along a lot of bass players stood in the back,” Clarke said. “They were very quiet kind of guys who didn’t appear to write music. But many of those bass players were serious musicians. All that I did was just take the step and create my own band.”

Tonight I’ll be listening to these records, all LPs from the JAZZFRITZ vinyl collection and following the bass lines of Stanley while sipping a good malt whiskey with a toast on his birthday!

As a leader

STANLEY CLARKE: Stanley Clarke (1974, remastered & reissued 1982) :: Embassy Records EMB-31890:

Line-Up: Stanley Clarke, electric bass, double bass, vocals & fuzz phaser effects; Bill Connors, electric & acoustic guitar; Jan Hammer, moog synthesizer, electric piano, organ & acoustic grand piano; David Taylor, trombone; Garnett Brown, trombone; James Buffington, French horn; Jon Faddis, trumpet; Lew Soloff, trumpet; Peter Gordon, french horn; Airto Moreira, percussion; Anthony Williams, drums; Michael Gibbs, conductor orchestra; Beverly Lauridsen, cello; Carol Buck, cello; Charles McCracken, cello; David Nadien, violin; Emanuel Green, violin; Harold Kohon, violin; Harry Cykman, violin; Harry Lookofsky, violin; Jesse Levy, cello; Paul Gershman, violin.

STANLEY CLARKE: Journey To Love (1975) :: Embassy Records EMB-31891:

Line-Up: Stanley Clarke, piccolo bass, electric bass, tubular bells, organ, maestro synthesizer, gong, vocals & double bass; George Duke, synthesizers, organ, clavinet, piano, electric piano, bells & vocals; David Sancious, electric & acoustic guitar; John McLaughlin, acoustic guitar; Jeff Beck, guitar; Chick Corea, piano; Lenny White, drums; Allan Rubin, trumpet; David Taylor, trombone; Earl Chapin, French horn; John Clark, French horn; Jon Faddis, trumpet; Lew Soloff, trumpet; Peter Gordon, French horn; Tom Malone, trombone; Wilmer Wise, trumpet; Steve Gadd, drums & percussion.

STANLEY CLARKE: School Days (1976) :: Nemperor Records NE-50296

Line-Up: Stanley Clarke, electric bass & double bass; John McLaughlin, acoustic guitar; Icarus Johnson, guitar; David Sancious, guitar & keyboards; Ray Gomez, guitar; George Duke, electric & acoustic piano; Milt Holland, percussion; Steve Gadd, drums; Gerry Brown, drums & handbells; Billy Cobham, drums & synthesizer.


As a sideman with

PHAROAH SANDERS: Black Unity (1971, remastered & reissued 1997) :: Impulse! Records IMP-219

Line-Up: Pharaoh Sanders, tenor saxophone & balafon; Carlos Garnett, tenor saxophone; Hannibal Marvin Peterson, trumpet; Joe Bonner, piano; Stanley Clarke, double bass; Cecil McBee, double bass; Billy Hart, drums; Norman Connors, drums; Lawrence Killian, congas, talking drum & balafon.

CHICK COREA: Return To Forever (1972) :: ECM Records 1022 ST

Line-Up: Chick Corea, electric piano; Joe Farrell, flute & soprano saxophone; Stanley Clarke, electric bass & double bass; Airto Moreira, drums & percussion; Flora Purim, vocals & percussion.


DEODATO: Deodato 2 (1973) :: CTI Records 6029

Line-Up: Eumir Deodato, keyboards & conductor; David Nadien, violin; Elliot Rosoff, violin; Emanuel Green, violin; Gene Orloff, violin; Harold Kohon, violin; Harry Cykman, violin; Harry Glickman, violin; Harry Lookofsky, violin; Irving Spice, violin; Joe Malin, violin; Max Ellen, violin; Paul Gershman, violin; Alfred Brown, viola; Emanuel Vardi, viola; Alan Shulman, cello; Charles McCracken, cello; George Ricci, cello; Alvin Brehm, arco bass; Russell Savakus, arco bass; John Giulino, double bass; Stanley Clarke, double bass; Joe Temperley, baritone saxophone; Tony Studd, bass trombone; George Marge, flute; Hubert Laws, flute; Jerry Dodgion, flute; Romeo Penque, flute; Brooks Tillotson, french horn; Jim Buffington, french horn; Garnett Brown, trombone; Wayne Andre, trombone; Burt Collins, trumpet; Joe Shepley, trumpet; Victor Paz, trumpet; Alan Rubin, trumpet & flugelhorn; Jon Faddis, trumpet & flugelhorn; Marvin Stamm, trumpet & flugelhorn; John Tropea, guitar; Billy Cobham, drums; Rick Marotta, drums; Gilmore Degap, percussion & congas; Rubens Bassini, percussion & congas.

CHARLES ROUSE: Two Is One (1974, remastered & reissued 2018) :: Everland Jazz 010 LP:

Line-Up: Charles Rouse, bass clarinet & tenor saxophone; George Davis, guitar; Paul Metzke, guitar; Stanley Clarke, electric bass; Martin Rivera, double bass; Calo Scott, cello; David Lee, drums; Airto Moreira, percussion; Azzedine Weston, congas.


GEORGE DUKE: Reach For It (1977) :: Epic Records 82216:

Line-Up: George Duke, keyboards & vocals; Charles Icarus Johnson, guitar & vocals; Mike Sembello, guitar; Stanley Clarke, double bass & electric bass guitar; Raul De Souza, trombone; Leon „Ndugu“ Chancler, drums, timbales & vocals; Manolo Badrena, congas, bongos & latin percussion; Deborah Thomas, vocals; Dee Henrichs, vocals; Sybil Thomas, vocals.


FREDDIE HUBBARD: The Love Connection (1979) :: CBS Records 83660:

Line-Up: Freddie Hubbard, flugelhorn & trumpet; Charles Findley, trumpet; Oscar Brashear, trumpet; Snooky Young, trumpet; Steven Madaio, trumpet; Dick Hyde, trombone; Phil Ranelin, trombone; Phil Teele, trombone; Buddy Collette, tenor saxophone & flute; Ernie Watts, tenor saxophone; Joe Farrell, tenor saxophone; Tom Scott, tenor saxophone; Chick Corea, keyboards; Chuck Domanico, double bass; Stanley Clarke, double bass; Chester Thompson, drums; Jumma Santos, percussion; Rubens Bassini, percussion; Al Jarreau, vocals; Guy Loma, concertmaster; Claus Ogerman, arranger & conductor.

Last modified: January 31, 2024