CD Review: Stanley Clarke Band "Up"

The latest from the Lord of the Low Frequencies is an invigorating career kaleidoscope made all the more vital by pertinent personnel choices and Clarke’s equal time on acoustic and electric bass.
By Chris Jisi ,

The latest from the Lord of the Low Frequencies is an invigorating career kaleidoscope made all the more vital by pertinent personnel choices and Clarke’s equal time on acoustic and electric bass. The James Brown-nodding opener, “Pop Virgil,” is a groove-and-slap fest augmented with horns and anchored by J.R. Robinson and Greg Phillinganes. “Last Train to Sanity” summons Stanley’s film and classical side, with recent tour-mates the Harlem String Quartet getting a workout. “Up,” fueled by Clarke’s incessant eighth-note pulse, Stewart Copeland’s drums, and Joe Walsh’s guitar, recalls the bassist’s ’80s rock and pop period. The late George Duke, a close friend, is honored with a joyous cover of his “Brazilian Love Affair.” Chick Corea joins Clarke for the live, bowed ballad “La Canción de Sofia.” And southern guitar force Jimmy Herring leads an update of “School Days.”

Elsewhere, Clarke weaves in three more of his acoustic “Bass Folk Songs,” including the bluesy “#13: Mingus,” and the finger-flying “#14: Dance of the Giant Hummingbird,” while adding the mournful tenor bass guitar chord-melody “#7: Tradition.” Ultimately, it’s the edgy “Gotham City,” the laid-back “I Have Something to Tell You Tonight,” and the title track that allow Clarke to most creatively work in multiple layers of bass in his inimitable style.