The Bass-ic Collection

by: Stanley Clarke

Jazz bass players are typically heard and not seen, but the lack of Stanley Clarke pictures on this predominantly instrumental collection of some of his best work is still alarming. No photos and no liner notes other than track personnel make this appear like a quickie release, maybe one without much of Clarke's input. Regardless, the 14 tracks compiled here are some of the bassist's best moments from notoriously uneven albums recorded between 1974 and 1989, with two previously unreleased tunes waxed in April 1995. As a jazz-funk bassist Clarke is perhaps without peers, and his second, third, and fourth albums from 1974-1976 best captured that style before he deteriorated into second-rate disco and watered-down R&B in the late '70s and '80s. So it's not surprising that six cuts, including "School Days" (arguably his most accomplished and energetic piece of playing and composition), are drawn from these discs and encompass well over half the running time. With help from veteran sidemen such as Jeff Beck, keyboardist David Sancious, saxist Kirk Whalum, and of course shotgun-riding cohort George Duke, the vibe sizzles and burns. Jazz fusion buffs will want to start here to appreciate Clarke's nearly lead guitar-style command of the bass. When Clarke finds his groove on P-Funk-inspired burners such as "We Supply" and "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" (the latter written by George Clinton and Bootsy Collins), he's unstoppable. Even at his sappiest on the newly released "Between Love & Magic," and the Earth, Wind & Fire-styled "Journey to Love," Clarke's precision and intensity on his instrument are startling. Although he has enough good-to-great moments for a double disc (even without digging into the Return to Forever catalog), this is a logical first purchase and a solid, if not terribly comprehensive, career overview of a bass guitar legend. ~ Hal Horowitz

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