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Clarke, Stanley (M.)

bass jazz guitar solo

Clarke, Stanley (M.), highly influential jazz-fusion bassist; b. Philadelphia, Pa., June 30, 1951. He began playing in rock bands in the 1960s before moving into jazz and fusion. A one-time violinist and cellist from Philadelphia, Clarke approached acoustic bass like a guitar, with dazzling, rapid patterns his specialty. He and his friend Lenny White dazzled a Carnegie Hall audience with Freddie Hubbard in June/July 1972. They both moved on to Chick Corea’s Return to Forever (1972–76); Clarke played only electric bass in this group, and also launched a solo career during this time. His 1975 album Journey to Love produced the funky single “Silly Putty.” He continued to make albums combining jazz and funk and helped to expose the bass as a versatile instrument capable of taking both lead and rhythm roles. Clarke achieved chart success in 1981 with the George Duke collaboration “Sweet Baby” and then with Jeff Beck and the New Barbarians. Since 1978, he has produced records for a variety of artists including Roy Ayers and Dee Dee Bridgewater and has contributed to sessions for McCoy Tyner, Aretha Franklin, and Donna Summer. In 1986, he embarked on a rare solo tour. He partnered again with George Duke in 1989, and in the early 1990s worked with the group Animal Logic. He has also scored several films, including Boyz in the Hood and Poetic Justice.

Clarke introduced the funk “slap-‘n’-pop” style of bass players like Larry Graham into the jazz world. His solos recall the work of rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, while his backing and melodic style owed much to Scott LaFaro. It was Clarke’s desire to be a melody player that led him to develop the electric version of the piccolo bass. Clarke also uses a tenor bass (a regular bass, tuned one fourth higher, with lighter-gauge strings), and the Folyde acoustic bass guitar (looks like a guitar, but is tuned lower and has four strings).

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