Jazz great in town for a night

Film aficionados fondly remember «Shaft,» a 1971 production featuring music by Isaac Hayes as the backdrop to Detective Shaft’s seedy New York City adventures in a world of porn shops, drug dealers and pimps. It was a tough, exciting and creative era, especially for young musicians such as 19-year-old Stanley Clarke, who moved to Manhattan along with seasoned colleagues such as Chick Corea, Al Di Meola and Lenny White. The bassist was a member of one of jazz’s most emblematic bands, the jazz-fusion act Return to Forever, which injected freshness to music by merging electric jazz, funk and rock. Clarke, who will be in Athens for one show at the Pallas Theater on April 19, spoke to Kathimerini in a telephone interview. «The chemistry between Chick and I was superb,» recalled Clarke, 56. «He knew what I wanted to play in advance, and vice versa. And we never said, ‘Now we’re going to play fusion.’ We just let ourselves get lost in the music. When you’re a part of a situation, you don’t realize the importance of what you’re doing.» The mention of New York City during this period sparked excitement in Clarke’s voice. «Yes, at the time it was a wonderful place. All the great jazz musicians were alive and active. You could talk to them and learn from them. And for all of us at the time, the ultimate patriarchal figure was Miles Davis,» said Clarke. No doubt fusion would not have existed without Davis’s «In a Silent Way» and «Bitches Brew» albums, both released in 1969. «I think he was the greatest musician who came out of jazz music. He had vision, was a truly restless soul, could sense what tomorrow would bring, but at the same time, took music to other places through improvisation.» Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1951, Clarke pursued classical studies in music. Despite growing up at a time when rock music was dominant, he was taken by jazz and bass. «Rock musicians were active in an entirely different field. It’s not that they weren’t good musicians, but they were interested in other things,» said Clarke. «On the other hand, I must note that my generation was extremely fortunate because we had such great variety – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, James Brown and so on. It would not be fair of me to say that I wasn’t influenced by these fabulous musicians. You had to be deaf to ignore rock music.» Clarke pursued a successful solo career from 1973 onward. His self-titled 1974 release, the following year’s «Journey to Love,» and 1976’s «School Days,» are regarded as some of jazz music’s most significant releases, especially with regard to Clarke’s improvisations on bass. He has also stood out as a composer of film soundtracks. Asked why jazz music was not producing masterful songs today, Clarke, sounding puzzled, responded: «Difficult question. Once upon a time, 70 percent of jazz standards were written for cinema. That’s where almost all of jazz’s great heritage emerged from. These days, cinema does not generally feed music with such gems. For some reason, those times produced major songwriters.» April 19, Pallas Theater, 5 Voukou-restiou, Athens, tel 210.3213100

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.