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The Stanley Clarke Band: UP

Walter Atkins By

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UP is the latest CD from the baddest bassist on the planet, Stanley Clarke. This is the first recording by the Stanley Clarke Band since the 2010 eponymous release The Stanley Clarke Band. The acclaimed bassist extraordinaire has handpicked an amazing list of guest musicians to play with The SCB. According to the official Stanley Clarke website, the four-time Grammy award winner is the "Liberator of the Electric and Acoustic Basses." His UP album soundly supports this sobriquet.

The first song, "Pop Virgil" is a rousing musical manifesto featuring some super funky guitar licks from James Brown's jazzy soul classic "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." Clarke introduces the song in his legendary bass style along with some hand clapping. This lively track, featuring Paul Jackson Jr's rocking guitar work delivered with gusto, had me dancing across the room to crank "up" the stereo volume. Greg Phillinganes' keyboards contribute to the track's soulful mix.

"Last Train to Sanity" evokes a majestic Return to Forever feel with choir voicings and strings by the Harlem String Quartet. The moving train motif gives dynamic force to the song. The title track "Up" continues in the driving rhythmic groove established by band on "Pop" and "Train." Joe Walsh's (James Gang, Eagles) fine guitar playing nicely compliments Clarke's energetic bass. The horns are blowing loud and proud on this track and Stewart Copeland's (The Police) drum work is solid throughout the song. Clarke includes the popular song "Brazilian Love Affair" as an on going dedication to his dear friend and recording partner, the great George Duke. This swinging samba classic written by the late Mr. Duke, a San Rafael CA native, puts a trip to Rio during Carnival on my bucket list.

"Bass Folk Song #13: Mingus" is a short somber acoustic interlude dedicated to the acoustic bass genius Charles Mingus. The creative Clarke sprinkles two other solo "Bass Folk Songs" throughout the album and each one features a different theme. On "I Have Something To Tell You Tonight" the band conjures up a cool evening walk home with your significant other.

Clarke the father dedicates the mellow jazz song "Trust" to his daughter Natasha. He then kicks up the pace on "Gotham City" and the band is cooking on medium. Now it's time for the group to turn up the funky heat with the popular "School Days" featuring Clarke's distinctive bass lines. Jimmy Herring seriously works out here on electric guitar. Recorded almost 40 years ago, the Clarke fusion masterpiece "School Days" still sounds robust and inspirational with this fresh version.

The graceful "La Cancion de Sofia," written for his wife Sofia, showcases Clarke with Chick Corea (Return To Forever) in an acoustic duet. After raising the roof and the heat on the previous track, the soothing dialog between these two influential artists on the last song is an appropriate way to close out the exciting UP album.

UP emphatically confirms Stanley Clarke's continuous crusade for musical liberation through his prodigious talent and innovative spirit. We can all enjoy this sonic movement.

Track Listing: Pop Virgil;Last Train to Sanity;Up;Brazilian Love Affair (Dedicated to George Duke); Bass Folk Song #13: Mingus;I Have Something To Tell You Tonight; Trust (Dedicated to Nana);Bass Folk Song #7: Tradition;Gotham City; Bass Folk Song #14: Dance of the Giant Hummingbird/Bass Folk Song #15: Eleuthera Island;School Days;La Cancion de Sofia (A Song for Sofia).

Personnel: Stanley Clarke (Alembic electric, tenor and acoustic bass & vocals); Natasha Agrama (vocal choir); Mariela Arredondo (vocal choir); Gerry Brown (drums); Ronald Bruner, Jr. (drums); Lenny Castro (percussion), Stewart Copeland (drums), Chick Corea (acoustic piano), Phil Davis (synthesizers, keyboards); Beka Gochiashvili (acoustic piano); Gary Grant (trumpet); Jimmy Herring (guitar); Jerry Hey (horn arrangement); Dan Higgins (tenor & baritone saxophones, tenor solo); Paul Jackson Jr. (guitar); Nick Mancini (marimba); Andy Martin (trombone); Mike Mitchell (drums); Greg Phillinganes (keyboards); Patrice Quinn (back ground vocals); John Robinson (drums); Ruslan Sirota (acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers); Jessica Vautor (vocals); Joe Walsh (guitar); Kamasi Washington (saxophone); Doug Webb (saxophone), Harlem String Quartet: Ilmar Gavilan (violin); Melissa White (violin); Jaime Amador (viola); Matthew Zalkind (cello).

Title: UP | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records


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