The Jazzcat

Stanley Clarke Creates Channels for New Musical Modern Men and Women

by on Jan.28, 2011, under News

by A. Scott Galloway (special to “The Jazz Cat”)

For four amazing decades, Stanley Clarke has thrown down the gauntlet as among the
most chameleonic renaissance men of music. Renowned as a jazz bassist on upright and
electric instruments, he has more realistically touched the full spectrum of music from
Classical, Film Scores and Chamber Music to Rhythm & Blues, Pop, Funk and all strata
of Jazz – from Straight Ahead and Fusion to the coolest of smooth. In the `70s the man
rocked out on a legendary tour with Ron Woods’ New Barbarians and this year, he and
his Stanley Clarke Band are enjoying two Grammy nominations. Through it all, Clarke
has amassed international awards and accolades, critics’ polls and readers’ polls, leaving
no rock or pebble unturned in his quenchless thirst of musical exploration.

These days, Stanley Clarke – vital as ever – is sitting in a compassionate seat of seniority,
giving back to the music community that supported his growth at every turn by forging
streams of creativity for the musicians coming behind him. We’ve seen it coming in his
embrace of young musicians such as Herculean African American drummer Ronald
Bruner, mind-blowing Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara and blazing Ukrainian-born
keyboardist Ruslan Sirota in the large and small ensembles under his name. And for the
last decade, we’ve seen it in the amazing talents he and his wife Sofia annually shepherd
via his Stanley Clarke Foundation Scholarships. This year – after blistering solos and
outstanding ensemble performances from five contestants – high school aged drummer
Zech Hogan and guitarist Jon Williams were the recipients of $12,000 scholarships to
Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute (MIT). Among the judges were Earth Wind & Fire
keyboardist Larry Dunn and his lovely singer wife Luisa Dunn, bassist Bunny Brunel,
singer Howard Hewett, and keyboard legends George Duke and Greg Phillinganes.

Clarke steadfastly believes that talent, not soci-economic background, should be the
principal factor in an artist’s chance to go on to create artistically at higher levels. “I have
never lost my awareness that opportunity to excel in art, in fact in all of society, is not
equally available to everyone, Sometimes the only thing that separates a young person
from success at a high level is the path. We can provide that.”

The next tier of Stanley Clarke’s ever broadening net is the launch of his new record
company Roxboro Entertainment, a project a long time coming and a source of
tremendous pride. Named after Clarke’s Philadelphia high school, the company is
supporting exceptional instrumental talents of today. Two artists bowed on Roxboro last
December: guitarist Lloyd Gregory (who produces a laidback contemporary sound on
his self-titled Roxboro debut that is his fifth CD overall) and Kennard Ramsey (a multi-
instrumentalist with an ethno-atmospheric Latin American vibe on his debut offering
Somos). “Lloyd is a player that just loves to play, just like me,” Clarke says of the in-
demand musician whose worked as a sideman with sax man Gerald Albright. “Kennard
I first knew from his work as a film (“Romeo Must Die”) and television (“Lincoln
Heights”) composer, so I knew his album was going to have a precise, clear direction.”

These first two artists Clarke signed do not have the straight ahead jazz background
that Clarke came into music with professionally before exploring many more genres he
loved. “What I did is what I did,” he reasons. “What somebody else is doing today is
what they’re doing. I’m always interested in anybody playing music for the right reasons
– with honesty and for the sake of the art that burns within them.”

Clarke is officially launching Roxboro with a first class party in North Hollywood,
inaugurating a new venue called The Federal on Friday January 28. The evening will
include multi-media projects introducing guests to the label’s complete artist roster. It is
there that in addition to Gregory and Ramsey, the audience will meet jazz pianist Sunnie
Paxson whose CD Jazz Divertido promises to be a straight ahead blend of her originals,
standards and a composition from Clarke. Also upcoming is a solo album from Stanley
Clarke Band keyboardist Ruslan Sirota – simply titled Ruslan – that will include piano
duets with Chick Corea and George Duke. Those releases are slated for spring.

Reflecting on the mission of Roxboro Entertainment, Clarke states, “When you are
starting a record company, diversity plays a major role. All of Roxboro’s artists come
from different locations in the world and offer remarkable cultural differences.”

So, too, has the arc of Clarke’s astounding career. Interestingly, one of the two
Grammy nominations The Stanley Clarke Band received for their self titled Heads Up
International release is a re-recording of a piece that Clarke has returned to many times
before. It’s the composition “No Mystery” by pianist Chick Corea – founder of Return
to Forever, the shape-shifting band that rocketed Clarke to fame in the `70s. Not only
has Clarke performed it in multiple live settings and recorded it as the title track of RTF’s
Grammy-winning 1975 LP No Mystery, he also recorded it in an acoustic trio setting
called The Rite of Strings with guitarist/RTF alumnus Al Di Meola and violinist Jean-
Luc Ponty. “I consider ‘No Mystery’ a perfect piece of music,” Clarke marvels matter-
of-factly. “It is my favorite of all Chick’s pieces. It would be cool to see it win another
Grammy again after all these years.”

Grammy winners will be announced on Sunday, February 13. And with a little luck,
perhaps one of Clarke’s many Roxboro or scholarship apprentices will be in line for the
coveted trophy in the years to come.

(January 27, 2011)

Leave a Reply

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...