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Night School: An Evening with Stanley Clarke & Friends

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Stanley Clarke
Night School: An Evening with Stanley Clarke & Friends
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Over the years, Jaco Pastorius has gained a lot of fame for delivering the electric from the bonds of background obscurity to solo freedom. However, about the time he was blazing a trail of innovation, another bassist was carving a path of his own. Stanley Clarke burst onto the jazz scene in 1971 and quickly found himself working alongside such notables as Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Chick Corea. With Corea, Clarke was a member of Return to Forever, which recorded eight albums and scored a Grammy award and several nominations. Since then, Clarke has collaborated with George Duke and Maynard Ferguson, among others, as well as become a bandleader. Above all, he continues to be recognized as a master of not only the electric bass but also the acoustic bass and piccolo bass.

Clarke is a strong believer in teaching music—not just how to perform but also production and business aspects of the profession. Night School: An Evening with Stanley Clarke & Friends is a DVD presentation of his work with the Musician's Institute in Hollywood, California. The package, portions of which have been shown on television, features an October 2002 concert, the third annual concert for the Scholarship Fund at the Institute.

The concert features Clarke with an all-star lineup of musicians performing several of his compositions, including collaborative works with Duke and Corea, and jazz standards by Charles Mingus ("Goodbye Porkpie Hat ) and John Coltrane ("Giant Steps ). Among those performing with Clarke are violinist Karen Briggs; drummers Gerry Brown, Rayford Griffin and Stewart Copeland; Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Bela Fleck and Stevie Wonder. Comedian Sinbad adds a brief comedy bit during which he talks about the importance of music education and directs a few quips toward bassist Marcus Miller.

Whether fingering or slapping, Clarke makes both the acoustic and the electric bass sizzle. One high point of the performance comes during "Big Jam, on which Flea and Clarke share electric bass duties. Copeland and Sheila E. perform a drum duet before the latter solos on her trademark timbales and cowbells. Another comes at the end of the concert, when a host of bassists join in the fun for Clarke's "School Days. Among the soloists given a chance to stretch out are Miller, Alex Al, Billy Sheehan, Stewart Hamm, Jimmy Johnson, Wayman Tisdale and Brian Bromberg.

As if the concert weren't enough, the DVD includes interviews with several of the musicians, including Briggs, Flea and Copeland; film producer John Singleton, whose Boyz 'N the Hood was scored by Clarke; and musician/producer Quincy Jones. It all makes for an excellent package. Although the bass is the featured instrument, Night School is about the art of making music together.

Tracks: The Floor; Wild Dog; Goodbye Porkpie Hat; Song to John; The Lochs of Dread; Why Wait; Frequent Flyer; Anna Mae; Theme from Boyz 'n the Hood; Big Jam; Every Day I Have the Blues; Giant Steps; School Days

Personnel: Stanley Clarke: acoustic and electric bass; Orchestra (1, 9); Armand Sabal-Lecco: bass (2-3, 9, 13); Rayford Griffin: drums (2-3, 10); Gerry Brown: drums (2-3, 9, 11-13); Mark Stephens: keyboards (2-3, 9, 13); Nick Smith: keyboards (2-3, 9-10, 13); Glenn Berger: saxophone (3, 10); Bob Summers and Mike McGuffrey: trumpet (3, 10); Doug Webb: saxophone (3, 9-10); Reggie Young: trombone (3, 10); Bela Fleck: banjo (4-5); Karen Briggs: violin (4-5, 10-12); Stewart Copeland: drums (5, 10, 13); Lenny White: drums (6); Patrice Rushen: keyboards (6); Benny Maupin: saxophone (6); Wallace Roney: trumpet (6); Michael Thompson: guitar (9); Paul Jackson Jr.: guitar (9-10); Flea: bass (10, 13); Sheila E.: drums and percussion (10); Rodney Franklin: keyboards (10-11); Stevie Wonder: vocals (11), keyboards (11-12); Ndugu Chancler: drums (13); Bunny Brunel, Alex Al, Billy Sheehan, Stewart Hamm, Jimmy Johnson, Wayman Tisdale, Brian Bromberg and Marcus Miller: bass (13).

Production Notes: 217 minutes. Recorded March 15, 2002 at Walt Disney Modular Theater, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California. Extras: interviews with members of The Vinny Golia Large Ensemble (50 minutes); rehearsal footage (10 minutes); slide show.


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