Stanley Clarke - 1, 2, to the Bass - So close, and yet so far

2006-03-29 18:21

Maybe it was due to a jazz-rock hangover, but the 90s found Clarke taking time off to score soundtracks and TV shows in the process picking up several Grammy Awards and Emmy Nominations.

His first album of new material in a decade 1, 2, To the Bass shows that it's obviously been a good sabbatical with Clarke clearly having spent his listening hours digesting an array of musical flavours from hip-hop, R&B and funk to rock 'n roll and global beats. The liner notes take pains to suggest that Clarke was keen not to make "a nice jazz record." And indeed, he's succeeded. The opening title track ambles to a laid-back acid jazzy beat reminiscent of Digable Planets with Q-Tip's languid spoken word rap an enticing lyrical breeze.

It's pretty self-effacing stuff and a completely unpretentious and accessible listen with Clarke actually downplaying his skills rather than celebrating his chops. "Simply Said" finds the bassist sculpting a familiarly wistful smooth jazz mood that segues into a stylish R&B jam ("Where is the Love") where Glen Lewis and Amel Larrieux ooze an old school soul duet style. "Anna (She Love the Good Life)" is a sweeping strings 'n bass workout with "Los Caballos" a delicate ramble. Similarly, the homage to Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Martino ("Just Cruzin') is well, steeped in a sense of tribute.

Unfortunately, it's precisely at this point where things take a turn for the worse. "All the Children" is an uplifting paean with violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam and drummer Vinnie Colauita unable - or maybe responsible for - the saccharine new age ache. Something that finds its natural climax in the almost unbelievable: Oprah (yes, Winfrey) reciting a Maya Angelou poem set to Clarke and a host of collaborators mood scape. Okay, it's a haunting slice of consciousness. But it's Oprah for f**k's sake! Whose overblown spoken word delivery reeks of talk show soap melodrama. Not even the closing elegy of "Shanti..." that taps into a suitably hymn-like melting pot of Middle Eastern moods can redeem this complete anomaly.

Back in the 70s bassist Stanley Clarke's virtuoso on solo hit albums such as School Days (1976) earned him a reputation as the premier bass player-composer in mainstream jazz.

asdf 2003/10/07 2:04 PM
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