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The New Cool: Stanley Clarke's New Bass Grooves

Photo by Raj Naik, with kind permission of the artist.
Don't worry, he's got your back. The Stanley Clarke with Beka Gochiashvili, Cameron Graves and Mike Mitchell

The three pioneers of the electric bass in jazz have been making great records recently. You've been hearing the latest from Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten on KNKX, and on this week's New Cool I've got the new album from Stanley Clarke. It's a ferocious young band, filled with plenty of Clarke's trademark low end grooves.

As a founding member with Chick Corea of the legendary jazz-rock fusion group Return to Forever in 1972, Stanley Clarke secured his place in the pantheon of music's great innovators at the tender age of 21. The bassman is not resting on his laurels, though. And his exciting band of talented young men show that he's not lost a step as a musician in his mid-60s.

Twenty-one-year-old pianist Beka Gochiashvili from Tblisi, Georgia has been playing with Stanley Clarke since he was 16. He joins with Cameron Graves from the Kamasi Washington band on electric keys and 23-year-old drummer Mike Mitchell, who's been with Clarke's band for 6 years already. “The guys in this band are consummate young musicians with musical spirits that are very old," Clarke says.

Many guests fill out the diverse sounds on this album, including trumpeters Mark Isham and Chuck Findley, and saxophonist Doug Webb along with tabla, synthesizers, voices, and more horns.

That spirit of modern 20-somethings (well, Graves is in his mid-30s) shines through on Clarke's new album The Message. Stylistically ranging from orchestral to latin, spacey pop, funk (of course), and even a solo cello piece, a listen to the full album suggests some attention deficit disorder may be in effect. In truth, it's the result of Clarke's constant pursuit to make music that defies category and reflects the time he's in. The Message does that.

On the New Cool this Saturday, Clarke teams up with an old friend and pioneer in the world of hip hop. Doug E. Fresh adds his vocals in the form of beatboxing in a duet with a funky slap-bass groove. Called "And Ya Know We’re Missing You", it's Clarke's tribute to friends across the musical spectrum who have left us in recent years: drummers Leon "Ndugu" Chancler and Darryl Brown, singer Al Jarreau, rock legends Tom Petty and Chuck Berry, and his good friend Larry Coryell.

With the frenzy of activity from Clarke and his bass contemporaries Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten, could the coming years bring another SMV supergroup tour? Or maybe another Return to Forever reunion with Chick Corea? One thing's for sure, Stanley Clarke is still creating exciting and compelling music for fans of all ages.

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5pm, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.