Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Stanley Clarke Trio: Jazz in the Garden

Heads Up Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 12.10.09
Buy CD: Jazz in the Garden

Long ago, when meters usually were 2/4 time, the acoustic bass was just a straight rhythm instrument. Unless you were listening to a concert orchestra, it never was used for solos, and then it was “bowed.”

Then along came guys such as Chubby Jackson, who played with one of the early Woody Herman “Herds,” and things began to change. The beat was a solid, driving 4/4, and Jackson even added a fifth string to the basic four-string instrument, to make it easier to place the fingers to achieve desired melodic lines.

As icons such as Ray Brown, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Stanley Clarke entered the scene, the bass became an important musical instrument.

This album features the incomparable Clarke and his trio.

Stanley Clarke has been “the” bassist for a long time. He's both a master of the instrument, and a master of innovation, moving quickly from straight-ahead jazz into fusion and the more eclectic genres.

For this release, he's joined by Lenny White — one of the tastiest, hardest-driving drummers working today — and Hiromi Uehara, a young Japanese pianist who made her recording debut just six years ago. White is a living legend who, like Clarke, first played with the Joe Henderson band.

The dozen tracks in this release include covers of great jazz standards such as “Someday My Prince Will Come,” Miles Davis' “Solar,” Joe Henderson's “Isotope” and a take-off on Duke Ellington's “Take the A Train,” titled “Take the Coltrane.” The rest include half a dozen originals by Clarke or Hiromi, along with a traditional Japanese folk song.

It's a marvelous performance by a trio of masterful artists. I hear something new every time I listen.

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