Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

853

Stanley Clarke Trio: Live at Catalina's

Carl L. Hager By

Sign in to view read count
Stanley Clarke Trio
Catalina Bar and Grill
Hollywood, CA
October 7, 2009



When bassist Stanley Clarke gathered drummer Lenny White and piano phenom Hiromi together last December to do his first-ever trio album, Jazz In The Garden (Telarc, 2009), no one knew quite what to expect.

Hiromi was clearly a new kid on the block, at least in this straight-ahead context. Clarke and White were both veterans who had been playing these notes since before she was born.

The question was whether a fusionista like Hiromi could be brought successfully into a musical world that would be measuring her not simply by her ability to flash a fancy solo, but by her ability to speak the language of an idiom. Testing her mettle with such high profile players was risking a lot.

After the show at Catalina's nearly a year later, she addressed the comment that she had come out punching with a surprisingly intense, aggressive energy on the very first number of the set. Penned by Clarke for his trio CD, "Three Wrong Notes" is an infectiously melodious bop tune that requires the players to find a groove and get it swinging fast, right from the opening notes—and Hiromi had showed she could really bring it. A Thelonious Monk-like time signature at the break surrounded on all sides by Dave Brubeck-ian bounce. Responding to the comment on her energy level, she smiled and said: "I had to, just to keep up with these two."



That's the truth. But while she may have a ways to go before she catches up with "these two," she's catching up pretty damned fast.

In fact, she came out hitting so hard on "Three Wrong Notes," that at times Clarke and White were keeping up with her. And the capacity crowd at Catalina's went nuts for it. Obviously, the majority had come to see the legendary bassist and drummer, but the brilliant young Japanese prodigy was stealing their thunder with her rambunctious blues figures and glistening arpeggios.

Playing with a ferocity usually reserved for later in a performance, if not an overheated encore, Hiromi tore into her solos with such passion that she immediately engaged the crowd and fired up Clarke, whose own solo went places the studio recording never would have predicted. Near the end of the tune, White traded a few fours with her, snappy little snare patterns and rolls that kept it jumping. All three were smiling by the end. It was a perfect tune to open the set.

The next number, also from Clarke's CD, was "Sakura, Sakura," a piece which is easily Japan's best known folk music in the West. Too well known, perhaps, because pretty as the melody is, by dint of being included on the soundtrack of nearly every Western film ever made about Japanese culture, this low-energy ditty about blossoming cherry trees has become a tiresome cliché. They were able to pull it off, somehow, Clarke's arrangement and the clash of Hiromi's angular, energetically urban-sounding improvisation rescuing it from toxic sweetness.

Just as familiar to the audience was a composition borrowed from the set list for Clarke's and White's current world tour with Chick Corea. "No Mystery," which both have played (and Hiromi has undoubtedly heard) hundreds of times, took off like a shot from the opening unison phrases. In this case, familiarity has bred perfection, not contempt. When the inevitable live CD is released, the first track to hear will be this one.

As she took up the melody, her soaring solo lines broke it out into new and strangely beautiful territory. Late in the tune, as a run-up to the composition's breathtaking coda, Stanley indulged his new fascination with hand drumming on the body and neck of his big upright in an explosive, hammering display that no one who saw and heard will ever forget. Corea will undoubtedly grin widely when he hears it.

After only a few bars of Joe Henderson's "Black Narcissus," it was plain that Hiromi was not only keeping up with "these two," she was stealing the show.

Not that Clarke and White were trying to stop her.

The piano-bass-drums trio configuration by its nature results in a timbral spectrum. The high frequency sounds, naturally, are more audible than the lower frequencies and jump out at the listener. But even if the arrangements gave Clarke plenty of opportunities to play higher on the strings, and White used a lot of snare and cymbal, the trio's orchestrational design usually put the solo spotlight on the piano whenever a main theme or melody needed to be stated. It's by design.

Stanley Clarke's soloing abilities have been unquestioned for 30-some years. Shortly after he first gained worldwide recognition playing with the early edition of Return to Forever, he set the gold standard for every electric bassist in the world with solo recordings like "Silly Putty" and "School Days."

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon Live Reviews NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery Live Reviews Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery
by Jonathan Manning
Published: January 22, 2018
Read David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club Live Reviews David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017
by Nick Davies
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Impressions of Monterey Jazz Festival 2017: MJF At 60" Live Reviews Impressions of Monterey Jazz Festival 2017: MJF At 60
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 6, 2017
Read "Steve Reich @ 80: Music for 18 Musicians" Live Reviews Steve Reich @ 80: Music for 18 Musicians
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "John Hart at The Turning Point Cafe" Live Reviews John Hart at The Turning Point Cafe
by David A. Orthmann
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory" Live Reviews We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory
by Josef Woodard
Published: December 16, 2017