Influences: Jazz composer and bass player Stanley Clarke
Few artists have a resume that reads like a jazz history lesson. Stanley Clarke is one of those guys. As a bass player and composer, his journey in the genre’s upper echelons began in the early '70s, and he's recorded with seminal composers and players such as Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Charles Mingus.
Clarke forged a legendary career with pianist/composer Chick Corea in the jazz fusion group Return to Forever, where his innovative, melodic style of slapping and tapping brought the band’s low end to new heights -- a practice he's continued for more than four decades and over 40-plus albums. Digesting an amalgam of artists ranging from the Beatles and James Brown to Richard Wagner and Igor Stravinsky, Clarke’s diverse influences would go on to shape the way he looked at songwriting.
Since branching into the composing world in 1985, Clarke has dozens of film and television scores to his credit. In November 2010, Clarke launched his independent, L.A.-based record label Roxboro Entertainment Group, focused on a stylistic patchwork of jazz, R&B and world music. His 2010 eponymous album with the Stanley Clarke Band won a Grammy for best contemporary jazz album.
Here he shares his musical influences:
John Coltrane: "He was sort of the first jazz musician that had a spiritual side to his music. He was playing jazz and very complex stuff. But on his albums, his message was always very spiritual, and that was unusual for me."
Miles Davis: "He was slick, he was so hip ... that’s the only way I can describe him."
Benjamin Britten: "I remember I played in this sort of elementary or junior high school orchestra and there was a piece that he wrote specifically for kids to play, and it kind of helps describe all the instruments in the orchestra. It was very well written, and I really enjoyed that growing up."
Chick Corea: "I enjoyed playing with him. He was interested in putting the band together and we had similar ideas, and that’s how the Return to Forever thing started. Not only is he a great piano player, but I actually believe he was is one of America’s greatest composers, really prolific. I don’t think people are even aware of how much stuff he writes. It’s nice to be in his company because he’s all about music."
Bill Cosby, jazz connoisseur
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Stanley Clarke. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times