There are some musical structures in their purest forms that are just far too awesome for words. The total experience that is Stanley Clarke & friends is such a structure. I have never held fusion bass in such high esteem--and there are several artists whom I admire immensely (Clarke and Marcus Miller top my list). If I had been in a band with the likes of either Clarke or Miller (or any of these heavyweights appearing here for that matter), it would have taken me forever to get beyond my own awe of them in order to proceed with my own contribution to the band.
This DVD, a recent Heads Up release of a masterpiece tale of a magical evening in October 2002, captures some of the most illustrious artists strutting their respective creativity with Clarke. The names go on and on: Brian Bromberg, Bela Fleck, Shelia E, Paul Jackson, Jr., Patrice Rushen, Lenny White, Stevie Wonder (check out this monster talent’s rendition of "Every Day I Have the Blues"), Jimmy Johnson, Wayman Tisdale, Karen Briggs, etc. The music goes from mind-boggling riffs, runs, and arpeggios to just plain outrageous chords and voicings that scream to the aspiring or up-and-coming musician, "Can you just first fathom that, let alone do it?"
Stanley Clarke embodies and surrounds himself with this purest of fusion. What an electric evening that must have been to experience just as a member of the audience, let alone as an onstage contributor! To witness the cerebral electricity and phenomenal artistic creativity as it cascades over the audience in overwhelming waves makes me truly envy every single person in attendance that night at the appropo Musicians Institute.
Selections of note, should one be forced to choose, have to include "Wild Dog," "Song to John," the big, bad and funky "Big Jam" and, of course, the Clarke anthem "School Days," a bass forum of sorts with all of the esteemed bassists individually and collectively lighting up the stage. To say that I feel very fortunate to have received this tour de force to review is a gross understatement. Christmas came very early this year for this mesmerized reviewer. Many thanks to Heads Up, Clarke et al. for making this treasure available and for keeping alive the elegance of the iconic, bigger-than-life Musicians Institute. The gift of this entity and the Stanley Clarke Scholarship for aspiring musicians are gifts that truly keep on giving. They speak volumes about the man, his spirit, the soul-stirring company he keeps, and his undying love for this art form.
Any student of this music simply cannot approach it casually. My advice: Get your chops together, study the roaring undercurrent and "feel" of the music and its many moods, then listen---and listen again. You may or may not have what it takes to master this seamless art form, but you should certainly come to know what it takes. Night School is not Jazz 101. In fact, this is a class as far beyond the graduate level as the sun is from Pluto.