If you are a top-flight bassist—both acoustic and electric—and if you’ve been playing over the years with a roster of some of the finest musical talent around, artists you can call your friends who would be more than happy to be a part of most any album you’re working on, chances are you’ll come up with a winner. And if you’re Stanley Clarke, there’s no chance about it, a winner will be a sure thing. Witness Up, a September release from Mack Avenue Records, a showcase of the many voices of Stanley Clarke.
“My aim here was to make a record with my friends. Every single recording session was nothing but fun,” says Clarke. “Surrounding myself with people I enjoy being with made the sessions effortless. Everyone came prepared and ready to play. All were great musicians and they came to the studio to give everything they had.” And it is clear that the proof is in music, no pudding here.
Whether he is working with Michael Jackson’s rhythm section as he does on the funky opening track “Pop Virgil,” the Harlem String Quartet on “Last Train to Sanity,” or playing solo on four of his short “Bass Folk Song” numbers, the emphasis seems to be on cramming as much variety into the album as manageable in a dozen songs. The “Bass Folk Song” tunes, with their etude-like vibe, are scattered through the set like palate cleansers making ready for a new course.
“Up,” the album’s title song has Joe Walsh and Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitar, Stewart Copeland on drums, Rusland Sirota on piano, and Kamasi Washington on sax. It has a cheerful poppy vibe that may strike some as overly commercial. Washington’s sax work, however, is something special. Later in the set he contributes some more outstanding solo work on “I Have Something to Tell You Tonight.” “Brazilian Love Affair (Dedicated to George Duke)” features vocals from Clarke and Jessica Vautor and mellow samba rhythms.
“Trust (Dedicated to Nana)” is a lyrical trio piece written for his daughter. “Gotham City,” presumably a shout-out to Batman, has some fine moments from saxophonist Doug Webb. The album concludes with a reboot of his 1975 “School Days,” with Jimmy Herring taking the guitar lead, and finally, an elegant acoustic duet with Chick Corea on “La Cancion De Sofia.”
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00LU8QEBK,B00PUTO90I]