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Stanley Clarke: Path Maker

By Published: February 22, 2011
AAJ: Tell me about The Stanley Clarke Band.

SC: It' a cool record, in the sense that is a record with some guys I have been playing with for a long time, and we thought about making a record. So I said, "Why don't you guys get involved a little bit more and write some songs, and we can make it like a group record? Let's get into it." I can surely make a record, write the songs, hire some musicians, but I thought "let's try something out here," you guys come in, or find a studio, or work here in my house, and have some fun, and that's what we did. And that's how we came out with a really nice effort, and it's nice. I think it's one of those records that will be out there, and people will come across it, and probably will take a year or two for the last person to finally come across it [laughs], but it's one of those things, and it's a really good record, I really like it.

I don't really think about a record to have anything to do with sales anymore, so I can only talk about the music. This record has a lot of things; if you read the back cover, there are little quotes, and the musicians I have played with on this album are really aware people that have lost something. You are not going to hear any lyrics about something that's important in the world, and also CNN is not going to come and knocking on their door wanting to know what they're thinking, because as we know the best musicians don't think anything [laughs].

So what I thought this time, I had little ideas. Let's make the cover an inside cover; let's not make it like it conforms to anything, so everything is a mishmash of everything. My daughter, who is graduating from college, she actually came up with the idea with the cover on the inside, which we put together, found the quotes and others things, and I am sure people listen to the music and maybe later down the road they'll be like, "Let's read what this is," and it's fun.

AAJ: And how did you come up with a title like "Larry Has Traveled 11 Miles and Waited a Lifetime for the Return of Vis"?

SC: Well, this tune was coming and it remind me to Weather Report, Return to Forever, and all these sorts of things, with the seventies kind of feel with fusion, or jazz rock, we didn't call it fusion back then. And sitting with Lenny White, that helped me to put the record together, he said, "You need a curious title for that," so putting all those names of bands together we came up with that long sentence for a title [laughs].

AAJ: I also wanted to ask you about "Bass Folk Song No. 6 (Mo Anam Cara)."

SC: That's a song reminds me of the city of Dublin. One time, I was looking for the roots of my family. I am definitely African American, but then there is this Clarke thing too. What the hell? Where's this name from? Obviously some guy named Clarke started this thing, and maybe with some African American woman, who knows? So a couple of family members and I searched for these Clarke's around Dublin, and kinda made it near Florida, so my family kinda comes from there. So once I checked that out, I don't know, this little song started playing in my head. I had this thing, I had written, like, ten bass folk songs, things that you just play on the bass and you don't really need anyone else to play with you, just a solo piece for the bass. I am actually going to release these on a record and video. And that's really what it is, a lot of emotion in that. When I play it live, people really like it, because it's a sobering sound and it plays well on the bass—earthy, and very melodic at the same time. There's a lot on there.

AAJ: On "Sonny Rollins," you painted this portrait of Rollins perfectly.

SC: I think there are a few musicians that really are important to me. Sonny, Coltrane, Miles...they are really, really important to me. I saw Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
in Europe two years ago, and he looked great, and he was playing great, and had such a high spirit. I had the pleasure of recording with him once or twice, I played some shows with him as well, and I just wanted to do this. I wanted the whole piece to be about Sonny. I opened up the piece, where I played Charles Mingus' bass in the front, so that was kind of special.

AAJ: What was it like to have Lenny White co-produce the album?

SC: Lenny is like my slightly older brother, you know [laughs]? I have known Lenny a long time. When I first came to New York, the greatest thing that happened to me, more so than playing with Dexter Gordon and all those other people, was meeting Lenny, and the reason for that was that Lenny, in a funny sort of way must have known somehow that I was kind of green to an environment like New York, and in a lot of ways he kinda looked out for me. Like, "No, don't play with that guy, don't hang with that guy, play with this guy, don't do this..." and things like that. Lenny is a really good guy, he's very caring individual. He was my first friend in the Big Apple. And I remember when Chick was putting Return to Forever together, I told Chick, "Hire Lenny White." I think I might have forced it a bit much [laughs]. So Lenny came in that band, and it was great. I have always had a connection with him. I am always doing something with Lenny. Last year, I think it was our fortieth year making music together. I'm thinking about maybe making a record together about that. So we might put something out together.

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