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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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STANLEY CLARKE TRIO

Jazz in the Garden

Heads Up HUCD 3155

 

 

  1. Paradigm Shift (Election Day 2008)
  2. Sakura Sakura
  3. Sicilian Blue
  4. Take the Coltrane
  5. Three Wrong Notes
  6. Someday My Prince Will Come
  7. Isotope
  8. Bass Folk Song No. 5 & 6
  9. Global Tweak
  10. Solar
  11. Brain Training
  12. Under the Bridge
Stanley Clarke - Acoustic bass
Hiromi - Piano
Lenny White - Drums

 

In my last review of a Stanley Clarke album, The Toys of Men, I noted that we haven't had a solo album from him for some time. But now he seems to have returned to a busy recording schedule - not only with Chick Corea's Return to Forever but now with this album, on which he is joined by drummer Lenny White (one of his colleagues from Return to Forever) plus Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara (who has also been prolific with her recent CDs, Time Control and Beyond Standard).

All three members of this trio are renowned for musical fireworks but the album starts on a surprisingly restrained note, with piano and bass improvising in turn over a vamp. On some albums, the double bass is difficult to hear but thankfully Stanley Clarke's solos are audible - thanks to a well-balanced recording as well as his powerful touch.

Perhaps as a tribute to Hiromi, Clarke plays Sakura Sakura, which the sleeve-note describes as a traditional Japanese folk song. Hiromi's composition Sicilian Blue is a lilting ballad with bowed bass and glistening piano. Things hot up for Duke Ellington's Take the Coltrane, with the double bass acting as a melody instrument, backed by Lenny White's extrovert drums while Hiromi takes a rest.

Hiromi and Stanley play Three Wrong Notes in unison before Hiromi displays her jazz credentials in a swinging 4/4 solo. In general her playing is less showy than it has been on some of her own albums - possibly deferring to Stanley Clarke as the leader. Yet her solo on Joe Henderson's Isotope is astonishing: seemingly playing two different tunes with her two hands. Stanley Clarke does something similar on his solo feature, Bass Folk Song No. 5 & 6, where the bass supplies melody and accompaniment simultaneously.

The sleeve-note labels Global Tweak as an "improvised duet" and it is truly free improvisation which works - unlike much of the pretentious but meaningless "free improv" that is around today. Lenny White returns for Miles Davis's Solar, which includes commendable solos from all the band members. Hiromi's original Brain Training is an intriguingly jagged piece, with more top-class soloing from all three. The CD ends with the group's first foray into jazz-rock: Under the Bridge, which was twice a hit for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Clarke's dexterity is continuously amazing, while Hiromi combines a delicate touch with blues feeling.

I wholeheartedly recommend this album as a memorable fusion of technical brilliance and musical sensitivity from all three players.


Tony Augarde 



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