Stanley Clarke Trio - Jazz In The Garden

album review

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Release date: May 12th 2009

Availability: CD, MP3 Download

Stanley Clarke Trio Jazz In The Garden cover

Stanley Clarke has always been one of the most gifted bassists of his generation. But he has not always endeared himself to mainstream jazz fans. The success with Chick Corea in 'Return To Forever' placed him at the forefront of the 'seventies wave of fusion but since then many in the jazz world have baulked at the outright commercialism of much of his solo output.

With "Jazz In The Garden", Stanley Clarke shows that he can re-enter the mainstream of jazz and begin to pick up on his career as an acoustic jazz bassist that had flourished before the move to fusion. As he notes in press releases to publicise the album, while he has played acoustic bass as a sideman on many albums, this is his first album as leader featuring acoustic bass.

He is joined by drummer Lenny White, himself a member of 'Return To Forever,' and by Hiromi Uehara who herself has fronted her own 'Return To Forever' inspired fusion band 'Sonicbloom'. So in a sense all three musicians are coming in from the fusion fold into mainstream jazz with this album.

However, that's not so true of Hiromi. She has pursued a solo, jazz mainstream career alongside the fusion interest. She appeared recently on the album "Duet" with Chick Corea, which comprised just two acoustic pianos, has performed and recorded with her own Berklee College Of Music founded acoustic trio and is becoming known as a musician who encompasses a wide range of styles, including elements from her native Japan.

This video promo shows interviews on the album with all three musicians:

There are three Stanley Clarke originals: "Paradigm Shift (Election Day 2008)" - written to celebrate Barak Obama's election as President - "3 Wrong Notes" and "Bass Folk Song No 5 and 6". Here, as throughout the album, Stanley Clarke's upright bass playing is a revelation, moving easily from driving bop accompaniment to sonorous, emotive soloing.

Hiromi Uehara contributes "Sicilian Blue", a Brad Mehldau influenced piece -which features a beautiful bowed introduction from Stanley Clarke - and "Brain Training" an uptempo piece with Thelonious Monk influences. She also introduces the traditional Japanese song "Sakura Sakura". In addition there is the improvised duet "Global Tweak", credited to Clarke / Uehara.

Stanley Clarke Trio  photo

The remaining material is drawn from disparate sources.

It is easy to forget that the Frank Churchill/ Larry Morey song "Someday My Prince Will Come" was originally written to be sung by Snow White in the Disney cartoon 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves', so complete was the transformation of the tune in the hands of Miles Davis. Here, something of the romantic origins of the song are more strongly hinted at, especially in the opening piano/ bass duet passages, making the contrast with the Miles Davis take on the song implicit. In recompense there is a straightforward and swinging version of Miles Davis' "Solar".

The only let-down on the album is the take on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under The Bridge" which starts out as pop and ends up as pop (or even smooth jazz) despite Hiromi's best attempts to find something more in it.

This is more than balanced by excellent versions of Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" and Joe Henderson's "Isotope" where the trio dig deep into improvisational jazz and emerge with music of intelligence and understanding. This is aided, as throughout the album, by the finely judged and subtle drumming of Lenny White.

A breakthrough album.

Relevant reviews:

Return To Forever "Anthology"

Chick Corea / Hiromi Uehara "Duet"

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