Stanley Clarke is one of the most talented and visible bassists in the world. From his groundbreaking work in fusion supergroup Return to Forever to his top-selling solo records, Clarke has been a pioneer in propelling the bass to the front of the stage. His hit records, “Lopsy Lu” and “School Days,” are standard rites of passage for young bassists, and his list of firsts is simply staggering: Clarke is the first bassist to have a certified Gold record, the first to headline world tours, and among the first to achieve virtuosic mastery of both acoustic and electric basses.
A prodigy in the Philadelphia school system, Clarke graduated from the Philadelphia Academy of Music and moved to New York in 1971. He immediately found work with established artists like Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, and a budding young pianist composer named Chick Corea. Clarke and Corea recognized the innate melodicism in each others playing, and formed a group to explore that in: Return To Forever. RTF achieved a level of popularity almost unheard of in the jazz world, scoring two gold records and a Grammy award before going their separate ways.
Clarke established himself as an internationally renowned solo artist, replete with hit singles and All-Star collaborations. More recently he has become an in demand film composer, writing and performing music for films like Boys N the Hood, What’s Love Got to Do With It (the Tina Turner Story), Passenger 57, Higher Learning, and many others. The Stanley Clarke Band’s latest recording won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2011.
The scope of keyboardist-composer-producer George Duke’s imprint on jazz and pop music over the past forty years is almost impossible to calculate. He has collaborated with some of the most prominent figures in the industry. A producer since the 1980s, he has crafted scores of fine recordings – many of them Grammy winners – for artists representing almost every corner of the contemporary American music landscape.
Duke received a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory in Trombone Performance and Composition, but his real lessons started after college. As a pianist, he started a house band gig at the Half Note club with a young vocalist named Al Jarreau. Being in San Francisco in the late 1960s took Duke in many different directions: soon he would be performing with Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Cobham and many others. Duke has been recording as a solo artist since the late 1970s.
Duke has also been in demand as a producer, working with artists as varied as Raoul de Souza, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Barry Manilow, Melissa Manchester, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, Take 6, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Natalie Cole and many others.
Clarke and Duke have been working together for decades, in many different projects. in 1981 Stanley teamed with George Duke to form the Clarke/Duke Project. Together they scored a top-twenty pop hit with “Sweet Baby,” and so far have recorded three albums.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“…[Clarke’s] extraordinarily virtuosic technical skills were as amazing as ever, displayed in an on-the-spot seminar defining the almost limitless potential of contemporary bass playing.” -Don Heckman, L.A. Times