Stanley Clarke is back after a five-year respite from solo recording. He has a new CD and a hot young band that is reviving the sound of ’70s jazz fusion with an animation and propulsion not heard since Clarke himself was a young man. The Toys of Men begins with a six-part suite in which Clarke, as his press says, “examines the emotional sweep of war.”
“That title,” he says via telephone from his daughter’s home in Santa Monica, “is kind of a metaphor for countries that use tremendous amounts of force from machines to purposely annihilate people.” Toys as a metaphor for weapons? “Yeah,” he says. “And we all know what the ‘toys’ are from a global point of view — from countries fighting against other countries to a guy committing a drive-by in Compton. The effect is the same.”
Forget that Stanley Clarke has won just about every major award available to a bass player — what is most important about Clarke is that he unchained the bass from the back of the bandstand and moved it into the spotlight. After his 1976 release School Days, Clarke would go on to become the first bassist in the history of that instrument to tour as a concert headliner. He took both the bass guitar and the acoustic bass and torched them with a speed and dexterity the likes of which haven’t been replicated. Critics might say that Clarke only enlarged upon a foundation already laid by the best of his generation — Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, James Jamerson. Not entirely true. Clarke is the virtuoso bass guitar hero whose ambitions have destroyed all of the traditions and myths about what a bassist can do.
STANLEY CLARKE, Anthology, Friday, January 25, and Saturday, January 25, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. $20 to $56. 619-595-0300.