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Stanley Clarke: Path Maker

By Published: February 22, 2011
AAJ: What's the best thing that has happened to you, musically?

SC: Well, you know I'd like to mention one thing, but I would just have to say being introduced to John Coltrane's music. I feel like a have a very soft heart for that, for his music. I mean, to me, I still am a real Coltrane fanatic, but when I was young, I was really nutty. I was the guy that would show up at a party and all the kids would be there heavy dancing to Motown, and I'd come in there looking really strange and going to the guy that controlled the records and put on a Coltrane record, and everybody wanted to kill me, "Let's murder him now!" To me, it was just natural: "I can't believe you can't feel this!" It was a great thing, because I even had friends of mine that I grew up with that couldn't understand what the hell Coltrane was doing, and now Coltrane is part of their musical diet. And you know? That's nice.

AAJ: And what's the best thing that's ever happened to you, personally?

SC: Well, to have health, you know? I've gone through life and I am still in relatively good shape, and that's a nice thing, to wake up and feel some sort of joy in life and feel purposeful, like you have a purpose and you can feel it. That's a great feeling. Actually I look forward to getting up in the mornings.

AAJ: Do you have any regrets?

SC: Musically, I can't lie and say that there's nothing, because there's some records and some things that I played that I wish I hadn't, even though, off the top of my head, I can't remember so much. But, there are things like that. And in life I think I am pretty much like anybody; there's certain people that I wish I didn't trust so heavily, certain women that I wish I hadn't fallen in love with, women that I should have fallen in love with...[laughs]...things like that. But I would say in general there is no huge, global regret on anything. I mean, I don't regret that I got into music, or that I am who I am, or that I have a career that I chose to do, all the big stuff I wouldn't change it for anything.

AAJ: So what would you say jazz means to you?

SC: Jazz to me is the spirit of play within music. It's like getting into an art form that you can really explore and really experience freedom within the art form. And what's really unique about jazz is that there is tradition there as well. Sometimes you can get some types of classical music, and I always wonder, do they really feel any sense of freedom? And then there are rules, in the classical world, when they play Mozart, you have to play a certain way, and you have to use certain instruments, and things like that, and it's beautiful stuff. When I hear, it I love it.

But I wonder, do they really feel a sense of freedom and creativity when they play it? And they are also playing somebody else's music. So one of the cool things about jazz is that we have all those rules in our music, but then there is some sort of unspoken agreement to explore and see what happens, and that's special. So that's why I say it's the spirit of play, because it is really like, as a kid, going into the playground: you have all these kids there, all these things, and you never know what's going to happen, good or bad.

Selected Discography

Stanley Clarke, The Stanley Clarke Band (Heads Up, 2010)

Stanley Clarke, Jazz in the Garden (Heads Up, 2009)

S.M.V., Thunder (Heads Up, 2008)

Stanley Clarke, The Toys of Men (Heads Up, 2007)

Stanley Clarke, 1,2,To The Bass (Sony, 2003)

Stanley Clarke, The Bass-ic Collection (Sony, 1997)

Stanley Clarke, The Rite of Strings (Gai Saber, 1995)

Stanley Clarke, If This Bass Could Only Talk (Portrait, 1988)

Stanley Clarke, The Clarke/Duke Project, Vol. 2 (Epic, 1983)

Stanley Clarke, The Clarke/Duke Project, Vol. 1 (Epic, 1981)

Stanley Clarke, I Wanna Play for You (Nemperor, 1979)

Return to Forever, Live: The Complete Concert (Columbia, 1985)

Stanley Clarke, School Days (Nemperor, 1976)

Stanley Clarke, Journey to Love (Nemperor, 1975)

Return to Forever, Romantic Warrior (Columbia, 1975)

Stanley Clarke, Children of Forever (Polydor, 1973)

Chick Corea/Return to Forever, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (Polydor, 1973)

Chick Corea/Return to Forever, Light as a Feather (Polydor, 1973)

Chick Corea, Return to Forever (ECM, 1972)

Pharoah Sanders, Black Unity (1971)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Bill King

Page 2: Leon P. Sealey

Page 3: Roger Humbert

Page 4: Atael Weissman

Page 5: John R. Fowler

Page 6: Kris King

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