The Bass-ic Collection

Stanley Clarke

Sony Music, 1997

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


Jazz fusion can be a mixed bag; when it works, it captures the thrill of both jazz and rock, but when it doesn't, it sounds like a watered down combination of both. This new compilation of Stanley Clarke's previous work, with two brand new songs added, has plenty of examples of both good and bad fusion.

The CD starts off well with the excellent "School Days." This song starts off with a catchy bass riff amid some guitar squall from Ray Gomez, then Clarke stretches out with some nice improvising. Clarke also rocks on "Hello Jeff" and "Rock And Roll Jelly" which feature former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck. These two songs show that Clarke can more than handle a straight rock bass line, although it is Beck who really dominates here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The CD ends with a bang on the ambitious piece "Life Suite." There are four parts on what can be called a fusion symphony. Clarke employs a brass and string section and features some nice work by drummer Tony Williams. The first part brings the whole orchestra together with a vocal by Clarke himself, the second part has Clarke and Bill Connors in a fast and furious bass and guitar duel, the third part is very funky and boasts some inventive bass lines, and the fourth part brings back the orchestra on a variation of the original theme.

However, the collection is dominated by funk-flavored tunes and they are a mixed bag. "The Mothership Connection" is a nifty little tribute to George Clinton and his band Parliament. "Silly Putty" and "Hot Fun" are funky but also leave room to feature Clarke's playing. On the other hand, "We Supply" and "I Wanna Play For You" are pretty lame, and not worthy of Clarke's talents. "Wild Dog" is a little better only because it is unexciting instead of tacky.

Even the two new tunes are a mixed bag. Both suggest that Clarke has been listening to new age music quite a bit. "Lost In Thought" is a pretty,melodic tune, but the lifeless "Between Love & Magic" only proves that between love and magic, there is boredom.

Another problem with The Bass-ic Collection is not so much what is onit as what is missing. I would have liked to have heard a sample of Clarke doing straight jazz. Where, for example is his work with saxophonist Wayne Shorter or violinist Jean-Luc Ponty? And why did the people at Sony not add at least one cut from Clarke's seminal fusion band, Return To Forever?

While The Bass-ic Collection has some choice cuts, there is just way too much fat on it with its emphasis on bland pop. For a better introduction to Clarke, I would suggest checking out his School Days CD.


Rating: C

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