In a career that spans nearly four decades and includes gigs with Return to Forever, Rite of Strings and a variety of other solo and collaborative projects along the way, bassist Stanley Clarke - one of the most prominent voices in electric jazz and fusion - had seemingly covered every possible corner of the jazz landscape. But there was one avenue he had yet to explore.
"I had never done an acoustic bass record, ever," he says. "There's a long list of people on whose records I've played acoustic bass - Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and many others - but I'd never done an acoustic jazz trio record of my own. So I wanted to record one that would just feature the piano and the acoustic bass in a way that you could really hear the bass."
This long-overdue dream project becomes a reality with the release of Jazz In The Garden. For his first straightahead acoustic jazz trio recording, Clarke assembles two brilliant collaborators at the top of their respective games: pianist Hiromi Uehara and drummer Lenny White. Each represents a distinctly different generational and cultural perspective, but given the range and versatility of both, the net effect is superb. Indeed, the synergy resulting from all three of these luminaries makes for one of the most refreshing Stanley Clarke recordings in recent years.
In many ways, Jazz in the Garden is Stanley Clarke's way of reconnecting with a time much earlier in his career before his plunge into electric jazz - a time when he earned his stripes playing acoustic bass with some of the most enduring names in the annals of jazz. "There are times when you want to revisit the things that really established the foundation in your life," he says. "I spent many, many years studying acoustic bass, and many years playing in New York after I left Philadelphia in the late `60s. I played with everyone who was there at the time. It was a long time ago, but all that stuff from that period is what made me who I am. This record is my way of reconnecting with that time and that music."
Personnel: Hiromi (piano); Lenny White (drums); Stanley Clarke (acoustic bass).
Audio Mixer: Michael Bishop.