Innovative bassist Stanley Clarke’s much anticipated solo album is designed with the emotive aspects of war in mind. And it’s a multifaceted brew, spanning tidbits of his work with 70s Return To Forever and even a few components that might elicit notions of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. With an armada of basses on hand, Clarke takes the requisite solo spot within various areas of this disc. But the most exciting element is rooted within the driving, complex exchanges and unison choruses witnessed on the extended and multipart opener titled "The Toys Of Men." Here, Clarke, violinist Mads Tolling and keyboardist Rusian Sirota engage in high-impact jazz-fusion phrasings amid lushly arranged interludes featuring vocalist Esperanza Spalding, performing on one part.
The leader’s amazing technical acumen is conveyed throughout. In effect, it’s a divergent track mix, where ambient-electronic passages give way to super-funk grooves and somber arco-bass driven movements. It’s an acoustic-electric engagement, but Clarke and company generate some high-heat within the heavier, plugged-in passages. On "Chateauvallon 1972 (dedicated to Tony Willians)," the bassist steers a quartet framework on a song that does indeed seem reminiscent of classic Mahavishnu via a concentrated upsurge within a budding, odd-metered time signature. Here, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. caps it all off with an electronically phased, polyrhythmic solo. Ultimately, it’s a welcome reentry for Clarke and not of the smooth or contempo-funk jazz variety, which is an art form that he’s frequently delved into during his post-Return To Forever days.