Bass Up the Place

Legendary bassist Stanley Clarke releases a jaw-dropping new DVD

Like late Fort Lauderdale native Jaco Pastorius, throughout his career, bassist Stanley Clarke elevated his instrument to a whole different dimension. Whether as a sideman or as the marquee figure in his own band, Clarke always brings his ax to the foreground as a lead instrument — developing slap and chord techniques so overwhelming that he needs a second bass player on stage just to keep the backbeat.

Clarke is a musical philanthropist of sorts. He recently set up a scholarship fund with the Musicians Institute in his name, providing funding for young musicians who seek to play professionally. On his recently released DVD Night School (Telarc), which documents a 2002 concert he performed at the Musicians Institute, he showcases the talents of these young players but also rocks out with an impressive lineup of industry heavyweights.

The guests on this well-structured jam include violinist Karen Briggs, Police drummer Stewart Copeland, percussionist Sheila E, Stevie Wonder (who plays a jazzified version of "Every Day I Have the Blues"), and Bela Fleck. An array of bass players, from Marcus Miller to Flea, makes appearances as well.

Be prepared. Watching this DVD can set off tiny explosions in your head as you try to take in the prowess of so many accomplished guests. There are tons of great moments from the concert footage. Watching andhearing ten bassists on stage — trying to audibly swallow the deep sound — for Clarke's signature "School Days" tune is a unique experience. Some minor commentary about American Idol, which was a novelty at the time of this recording, is featured here as well. The DVD extras are simultaneously impressive, with interviews with each of the performers in the show (including Quincy Jones, who assisted in the production of the recording) and a heart-wrenching rendition of the poem Why Wait by Maya Angelou, backed by Clarke on the upright. For upcoming bass aficionados, this DVD should be ground zero for getting your chops up to par.

 
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