Category Archives: Stanley Clarke

Let Me Know You: Stanley Clarke’s Unsung Second Solo Album Of The 1980’s

Let Me Know You

Stanley Clarke was a musician whose solo albums of the 1970’s were always talked about. Yet there was one album that hardly ever did-only occasionally as a mentioned titled in some discographies of his music. It was his 1982 album Let Me Know You. First I found the album on vinyl,then picked it up on CD. Then realized why it might’ve been left out. This is basically a full on post disco/boogie album from Clarke-featuring the likes of Greg Phillinganes and Paulinho Da Costa among the musicians. Here’s an Amazon.com review I wrote just over a decade ago that goes more deeply into its musicality.


Right after the release of the first Clarke/Duke Project LP Stanley Clarke and George Duke both decided to take a musical break from each other and do a pair of solo albums without the participation of the other.Duke produced ‘Dream On’ while Clarke produced this album ‘Let Me Know You’,both in 1982.Both albums are very much funky pop/R&B vocal albums with some curious differences.’Let Me Know You’ is the slightly more jazz oriented of the two and as always,Clarke is not quite as experienced (or communicative) as Duke.

The songwriting is extremely strong and three “Straight From The Heart”,”I Just Want To Be Your Brother”,”The Force Of Love” and the pounding “New York City” find Clarke moving away from hardcore jazz-rock fusion and into the world of tighter,more carefully crafted and arranged R&B,funk and pop.The sexy title song is actually the only instrumental on the album and is the only representation of the ‘old’ Stanley Clarke.

My favorite cut is the Linn drum/Leslie Amp powered “Play The Bass” the more or less trails off before it get’s a chance to get going-it’s funny how many R&B and funk artists elect to showcase some of their most creative music as brief interludes (read:Earth Wind & Fire).Nevertheless ‘Let Me Know You’ is a wonderful pop/funk album and actually one of Clarke’s most consistently enjoyable of the early 80’s.

Trouble is it’s also his only record never to have been released on CD up until now.And while I am sure that many like myself who have enjoyed listening to the vinyl record of this album the new CD is a treat.But I really hope fans of Clarke or the Clarke/Duke Project will revisit this if they’ve never heard it-fans of both artist’s music from the 1980’s will feel right at home.


Let Me Know You comes from a time where Stanley Clarke was looking to condense his music to a degree. He actually managed to solo many times on these songs. That being said,, this album had him striving ever more to look towards gaining momentum as a composer as opposed to mainly an instrumental soloist. He even got a bit of a dance hit with the album with the song “Straight To The Top”. Once heard Clarke himself refer to his music at this time as “pretty commercial”. But its still by no means a Stanley Clarke album to avoid. Especially if you enjoy funk that where’s its jazziest flavors proudly.

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Monster Man” by Jeff Lorber Fusion

Jeff Lorber has remained one of the major jazz/funk keyboard players whose continued through the smooth jazz era by remaining consistently funky. Music will always change. And artists will have to change with it. Lorber has realized that as long as he keeps the rhythms tough and strong,and his solos jazzy and hummable,that the jazz/funk/fusion sound he’s now a veteran of,he can modernize his sound but keep its basic flavors intact. This is something he’s shown with his recent comebacks. On the other hand,his grooves hit a fevered pitch in the early 1980’s.

About 12 years ago when discovering Jeff Lorber’s albums from approximately 1980 to 1986, it came to me how much he was able to do with in the time period when analog based synthesizers were transitioning to digital ones. This also arrived at the same time that the Jeff Lorber Fusion were beginning to focus on heavy rhythm along with improvised instrumental soloing. That played a big part in their final album together for almost 30 years entitled Galaxian. The opening track of this album is one of the best examples of this that I can think of. It was called “Monster Man”.

The thick drums and slap bass start out the song before a fruity voice does a short rap at the beginning-while the bass burbles with an accenting rhythm guitar beneath him. After this,Donnie Gerrard’s vocals come in. And each of his vocals lines is accented by the horn charts from Jerry Hey. This represents the chorus of the song. On the refrains,Lorber’s keyboards lead a group lead the harmony vocals. On the bridge of the song,the drums take on a Brazilian flavor as the slap bass gets a duetting solo from non other than Stanley Clarke himself before the song fades out on the main theme.

‘Monster Man” is indeed a heavy funk monster. The bass leads the way from beginning to end. And the entire song never takes its eyes off the groove. I dare say it is the most thoroughly funky song Jeff Lorber made in the 1980’s. I’m not entirely sure if Stanley Clarke plays all the bass lines here,or is accompanying bassist Danny Wilson (who plays on the rest of the album) on this song. Either way,its still one of those “bass in your face” songs where the funk is very accessible to identify. Since Lorber is celebrating his birthday today,this is just the song I’d personally chose to represent his groove.

 

 

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Filed under 1980's, Donnie Gerrard, drums, horns, jazz funk, Jeff Lorber, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Jerry Hey, rhythm guitar, slap bass, Stanley Clarke, synthesizer

Grooves On Wax: 1985-Albums & 12″ Inch Jheri Curl Funk

High Priority

1985 best epitomizes the presence of what my newest blogging partner Zach Morris of Dystopian Dance Party refers to as “Jheri Curl Funk”. True,there was a lot of flat synth pop on the same landscape. Still the electro funk and soul that came out during this year was some of the toughest and most daring of the sub genre. This album by Charrelle on the Tabu label is a great example. It’s a thematic/musical romantic concept album-utilizing Jam & Lewis’s cinematic synth funk touches on this gospel drenched,Deniece Williams like soulstress.

Key Jams: “You Look Good To Me”,”New Love” and “High Priority”

Samurai Samba

The Yellowjackets were an 80’s band who,like soloists such as Herbie Hancock and Paul Hardcastle,were able to great a strong electro funk/dance context for their jazz/funk fusion approach. This album is one of the best examples of this that I’ve heard so far, particularly when the heavy Afro-Brazilian percussion comes in.

Key Jams: “Homecoming”,”Dead Beat” and “Samurai Samba”

Mary Jane Girls

The second release for Rick James’ Mary Jane Girls was not only another in a pair of two very strong albums for them,but brought them the major smash hit “In My House” which,as my friend Henrique pointed out,has some of the thickest layers of deep rhythm guitar Rick had done during this period. The album maintains itself strong with one hard funk and brittle new wave number after another.

Key Jams: “In My House”,”Break It Up” and “Wild & Crazy Lover”

Masterpiece

Ron,Rudy and the late Kelly Isley re-emerged as a trio after over a decade in the groups 3+3 singer/instrumentalists sextet with their two younger brothers and Chris Jasper. Employing session aces such as Paulinho Da Costa,Paul Jackson and John Robinson,this album employs a sleeker version of their early 80’s sound,with a strong tendency towards rhythmically heavy mid tempo ballads. Still the original Isley’s trio still love their uptempo songs too.

Key Jams: “Colder Are My Nights” and “Release Your Love”

Life

Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded their next to last album together-continuing to work with Larkin Arnold as they had on their phenomenally successful previous album Visions. Leon Sylvers did a lot of the producing for an album that blends a charged up hard electro sound with the groups classic uptempo gospel/soul shuffles and cinematic ballads all given the mid 80’s sonic update.

Key Jams: “Strivin” and “Do You Wanna Have Some Fun”

It was Henrique who pointed out that,while on the way to work listening to it,that the lyrics to James Brown’s “Living In America” are from the viewpoint of a trucker. This was exciting for me as this was the first JB song I ever heard. Remember thinking he was a magician based on his pose for the cover. The “12 inch mixes includes a more industrial intro from producer Dan Hartman along with a great funkified instrumental.

Hearing Stanley Clarke do “Born In The U.S.A” in a Kurtis Blow style rap version gave no doubt as to the songs powerful anti war/pro working class sentiments than Bruce Springsteen’s original did when Ronald Reagan campaigned with the song. This 12″ inch expands on the songs re-sampled synthesized voices and bass lines on the extended mix.

Jermaine Jackson’s solo career during the early/mid 80’s in general is pretty underrated. He took a lot of musical chances that didn’t always get very noticed. This particular song has an industrial world funk sound,composed mostly in the pentatonic scale,similar to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “neo geo” sound from the same era. The instrumental mix of this shows this off very well-just as much as the vocal versions shows off Jermaine’s flexible vocal range.

 

 

 

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Filed under 12 inch singles, 1985, Cherrelle, electro funk, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Isley Brothers, Jam & Lewis, James Brown, Jermaine Jackson, Mary Jane Girls, Rick James, Stanley Clarke, Uncategorized, Vinyl, Yellowjackets

Stanley Clarke: His First Solo Decade

Stanley Clarke painting

Stanley Clarke showcases yet another example of how the City Of Brotherly Love sometimes comes across like the most musical city north of New Orleans. Since NYC and Miami lays between them,it’s more complex than that. That describes Stanley’s approach to bass playing too. He was of course one of the premier jazz fusion bass players of the 70s alongside Jaco Pastorious-with whom he recorded.  He also had a distinct style on the two different bass types-a Larry Graham inspired slap on the electric,and a smooth vamp on the upright acoustic. That helped give his playing style it’s distinctiveness.

I’ve covered one Stanley Clarke song from his most recent album Up,as well as having him be a part of my list of key funky bassists. Thought of covering one or three of his songs on this blogs Anatomy of THE Groove feature. But there’s something about the breadth and expansion of Stanley’s career that lent itself to something else. Recently I’ve been doing individual articles that focus on a large number of songs by such artists with vast musical catalogs. So here is a rundown of the Stanley Clarke numbers that made the funkiest impact on me personally out of his now 44 year old solo career.


“Vulcan Princess”/1974

This song rips right out of Stanley’s self titled sophomore album as a vital extension of Return To Forever’s   (with whom he was bass player still) “Vulcan Worlds”. This version takes the powerful Minimoog based melody into a phat funky slap bass groove on the refrain. Actually,my very first time hearing Stanley Clarke playing funk.

“Hot Fun”/1976

It is very easy to lean on the title song of Stanley’s 1976  release School Days. While that has one of the most iconic funk bass lines in history,something about the horn arrangements building up this song and it’s slap bass improvisations really bring out the funk. And showcases Stanley really developing as a cinematically strong composer.

“Modern Man”/1978

Stanley Clarke really paved the way for his ability to score arrangements with this song. With it’s multiple sections ranging from jazzy ballad to melodic uptempo pop-funk,this busily cinematic groove also showcases Stanley playing a lot of higher toned bass links and really working very well with his developing vocal abilities.

“Just A Feeling”/1979

Stanley’s partner in funky music,the late George Duke,provided some bluesy chromatic walks on the Yamaha electric piano on this bouncy disco-funk tribute to Louis Armstrong. On the choruses,Duke and Tom Scott on wah wah lyricon provide a sunny and triumphant melody.

“Together Again”/1979

On this very hummable disco pop number,Stanley Clarke plays all the instruments. Again it points to his talents to score a number that could’ve easily been a film or television show theme song of the time. Has some similarities to a Bob James composition in that area,only with a more stripped down instrumental style.

“We Supply”/1980

With it’s slow dragging beat,horn charts,synth washes and intense slap bass ruffs from Stanley this song was a great way for Stanley to bring in the 80’s with one of the heaviest P-Funk inspired grooves the man ever came up with.

“New York City”/1982

Stanley Clarke was working with Carlos Santana a lot during this time. Both artists were pursuing a vocally oriented boogie/post disco pop-funk sound. Stanley’s Let Me Know You album is defined by it and this stripped down number-with it’s drumming that seems to gradually slow on the intro and the bubbling bass licks help this tribute to NYC come right to life.

“Are You Ready (For The Future)”/1984

With it’s use of sequencers,brittle synthesizer riffs and drum machines this song is one fellow blogger Zach Hoskins might refer to as “the Jheri curl sound”. With it’s use of processed,ghostly back vocals and chipmunk’d leads,the real star of the show on this song is Ray Gomez’s scratching rhythm guitar along with Stanley’s equally chugging lines.

“Time Exposure”/1984

The title song to Stanley’s 1984 album stands as a synth pop/new wave showcases for some of Stanley’s heaviest slap bass riffs-even playing in a duet style with his own higher pitched riffs.


It’s true that Stanley Clarke has recorded many albums and many songs since the mid 1980’s. At the same time,very little he has done since that time has stood out in terms of individuals songs. He became more of an album artist. And one of the best in terms of bass at that. Of course he continued to parlay his talents in scoring films and television. So it felt important to showcase how funk helped Stanley to develop the compositional style that has served him well-both creatively and commercially.

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, cinematic funk, elecro funk, Funk Bass, funk rock, jazz funk, Moog bass, Ray Gomez, slap bass, Stanley Clarke, upright bass

Paul McCartney: The Cute Beatle With A Bag Of Many Grooves

Paul McCartney

People have had discussions about who their favorite Beatle was. Each had their own distinct creative personality that made them work so well together. Yet if someone asked me which former Beatle appealed to me most musically,it would be Paul McCartney. As a composer/singer/multi instrumentalist,Sir Paul is possessed of the same multi faceted creativity of people such as Todd Rundgren and the late Prince Rogers Nelson-worthy of their mutual Gemini stars. He has his own distinctive approach to melody and groove-extending across hard rockers,easy going pop ballads as well as his most soulful side.

That soulful side of McCartney is what I’d like to talk about today. One of the key factors of him in general is how well he understands the importance of groups to his music. Between The Beatles and his second band Wings, McCartney always realized what other musicians from John Lennon to Denny Laine could offer him instrumentally than if  he just played everything. Between arranging horns and working with musicians such as fellow bassist Stanley Clarke,Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and the Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart, here are some of my favorite of the soulful,funkier songs from Paul McCartney.


“She’s My Baby”/1976

On the album Wings At The Speed Of Sound,the members of Wings all contributed their songs to the mix. This had mixed results,but one of my favorite contributions from McCartney himself was the stripped down melodic funk of “She’s My Baby”. Especially with it’s somewhat jazzy Fender Rhodes electric piano solos.

“Arrow Through Me”/1979

This dramatic blend of reggae rhythms and West Coast style jazz/funk was the song that caught my attention most. From the reverbed snare drum traps to the processed electric piano,it’s no wonder that this imaginative and melodic groove became the basis for Erykah Badu’s “Gone Baby Don’t Be Long” over three decades later.

“Coming Up”/1980

McCartney played everything again on this song,while channeling his inner James Brown. In this case,turning his one man band (including his chicken scratch guitar) into a drum. Not to mention having one of the snappiest melodies of McCartney’s career to boot.

“Secret Friend”/1980

This is another very early 80’s song from McCartney’s second proper solo album that truly blew my mind. It’s a technological carnival of Brazilian percussion,funky bass/guitar interactions and a very psychedelic East Indian type melody. And keeps it all going for well over ten minutes as well.

“What’s That Your Doing”/1982

Instrumentally speaking,this thickly bassy and percussive hard funk jam seems to be more the work McCartney’s duet partner on this song Stevie Wonder. But it leaves plenty of room for McCartney’s bass and guitar abstractions. Especially when the chorus of his Beatles classic “She Loves You” appears on the extended outro. My absolute favorite song from the McCartney/Wonder collaboration.

“Dress Me Up As A Robber”/1982

A superbly composed piece of Brazilian jazz/funk from Paul on his 1982 album Tug Of War. The rhythm guitar and synth bass are some of the hottest McCartney had done up to this point. Especially on the breakdown on the bridge of the song that reminds me Gap Band songs from that same period.

“Hey Hey”/1983

Stanley Clarke’s early 80’s collaboration with Paul McCartney continues on this expansively melodic jazz fusion instrumental from McCartney’s underrated 1983 album Pipes Of Peace. It starts out as a kinetic Afro-rocker almost,then mellows into a jazzy reverb laden keyboard and bass driven bridge. One of my favorite instrumentals from McCartney.

“Tug Of Peace”/1983

McCartney pulls out a full blown electro Afro funk percussion extravaganza on this song. Structurally,it’s a lyrical reboot of the title ballad of his previous album “Tug Of War”. But the feeling is much more revved up rhythmically-almost as if to say that peace is a source of joy while war slows you down. And this is all aside from McCartney delivering one of the finest bass like low rhythmic guitars of his career.


Discussing the music of Paul McCartney in a soul,funk and even jazz context might seem atypical. But it really isn’t when one considers the way in which musicians intermingle. In Liverpool,most of McCartney’s musical acquaintances were playing the same type of music basically. He the man traveled the world and gained more experience,the newer musicians he became associated with continued to expand his stylistic and rhythmic repertoire beyond even where the Beatles had take their music. And it’s his creative flexibility that is the core of the man whose turning 74 today.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, bass guitar, chicken scratch guitar, Fender Rhodes, Funk Bass, funk rock, jazz funk, Paul McCartney, pop rock, rhythm guitar, Stanley Clarke, Stevie Wonder, Wings

Anatomy Of The Groove 1/9/2015-Andre’s Pick: “Berlin Street Funk” by Peter Muller

One of the true blessings of the internet is the ability for independent musicians,from all different genres,to have the available infrastructure to not only promote and release their music but also be able to maintain it’s intended creative flavor. Bremen Germany born Peter Muller is such a case of a vital funk bass player whose career took off entirely during (and to a great degree because of) the internet. With a father playing acoustic bass and piano,Muller became a sideman during the 90’s who was very much attracted to the playing approach of Stanley Clarke,Mark King and the incomparably multi talented Marcus Miller.

Shortly after joining the UK’s Frank Mead Band,Muller started a solo career. And in doing so became among one of the earliest pioneers who made full use of digital recording software to record his music directly on and to his own PC.  Developing his own studio known as Wave Island,Muller recorded his debut in 2003. His second album The Flow became a prominent aspect of the then still growing iTunes Jazzhcharts. After several years of working primarily as a music educator,Muller assembled some of the members of the Frank Mead band,including the man himself for his next album in 2014’s No Mind-which opened with the song “Berlin Street Funk”.

Beginning with an isolated and classic funky drum solo directly from the Clyde Stubblefield school,Muller’s punching slap bass solo comes in playing a bluesy funk solo,followed up by keyboardist Tobias Neumann’s jazzy notations on the Rhodes. Mead then comes in on sax playing the basic melody Muller originally threw down on his electric bass. All surrounding an unusually clear cut sample of the rhythm guitar line from James Brown’s “Sex Machine”,. Following a bridge featuring a sax improvisation from Meade? The music builds up to an intense unison of grooving led by Tim Canfield’s wah-wah guitar eventually building into a reverb laden jazz-rock styled electric guitar solo that is cut off by Mead’s closing sax solo that provides the final fanfare to the song.

Perhaps it was Muller’s years as a music educator that inspired him to present this song the way he did. The fact that each instrument from each of the band members he was working with build up the song from the foundation upward? Each playing directly off the drum and bass part Muller put down? There is just as much of an instructional element to this song as their is entertainment factor. And that factor is very heavy too because each of these players combines the funky basics of James Brown,the slap bass of Marcus Miller and the harmonically enriching electric piano approach of a Herbie Hancock and mixes them together for a potent and live band style funky stew of grooves,rhythms and complex melodies. Surely this qualifies as Peter Muller’s own jam of the year!

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Filed under 2014, Frank Meade Band, Funk, Funk Bass, Germany, James Brown, Jazz-Funk, Marcus Miller, Mark King, Peter Muller, Stanley Clarke

Anatomy of THE Groove 10/10/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Pop Virgil” by Stanley Clarke

It’s been over 40 years since Return To Forever member Stanley Clarke began his solo career. One of the major gifts he gave to the world of the then still developing jazz fusion genre was how he showcased two separate styles of playing-on electric and upright bass respectively. As an electric bassist? This was a man who’d come up listening to bass player icons such as Motown’s James Jamerson and the Bay Area’s Larry Graham. So he had both a gift for melody and for the then still developing slap bass style from later in the 60’s. This quality also musically endeared him to his frequent musical partner-the late George Duke.

One thing Stanley has continually worked on throughout his career is the challenge of composition. He started out relatively weak in that area. Yet it wasn’t too long before he was competent enough to become an in demand scorer of Hollywood films. Today he is something of an honored elder who doesn’t exactly need to make music for any career reasons. But he still has so much music left in him,he keeps doing it and reaching for new ideas. With the release of the James Brown biopic ‘Get On Up’,this has been (as my blogging partner Rique might put it) The Year of JB. Even I’ve been hearing his direct influence everywhere. And it would seem Stanley Clarke is no exception.

Driven by a back-round of hand claps,the song begins with Stanley playing what a horn fanfare soon kicks into gear:essentially a very straight re-rendering of James Brown’s classic hit “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”. Stanley of course is playing James’ vocal line on the slap bass,which is very appropriate. With the outro to the second refrain,you’ve got a wailing and funky saxophone solo blasting to life. On the bridge however,an isolated and very spirited drum solo kicks into life. After this Stanley plays a deep,even more drum-like  than usual rolling electric slap bass line after which the entire band lock right into superb funky unison with Stanley.

Not only is this an amazing re-visitation of James Brown funk from Stanley Clarke,but also succeeds strongly by virtue of his band on this song. They are members of the famous Quincy Jones Westlake Studio. Guitarist Paul Jackson,keyboardist Greg Phillinganes,drummer John Robinson and horns arranged by Jerry Hey. These are the same people who spun musical gold not only for icons such as Michael Jackson,Phil Collins,Michael McDonald and Patti Austin but also for many pop/soul studio sessions during the mid/late 80’s.

These are people known for their polished studio sheen-something the eternally road bound James Brown didn’t always have the advantage to have on his original studio classics. They deliver some polish hear,but they also maintain James’ instrumental plain spoken manner while still maintaining there renowned studio professionalism. Makes one wonder what those original records with the JB’s band would’ve sounded like in such a studio setting. Also,it shows how many different venues of sound that James Brown’s sound can operate under even today. So it’s worthwhile to thank Stanley Clarke on many levels for taking James Brown’s innovations as a musical launching pad for funk futurism.

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Filed under Funk, Funk Bass, Jackie Lomax, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Michael Jackson, Motown, Quincy Jones, Stanley Clarke