Since his fully committed return to the jazz scene 10 years ago, Stanley Clarke has wisely walked the fine line of being faithful to his legion of long term fans with albums and concerts featuring reunions with Return to Forever, but he’s also taken drinks from the Fountain of Youth by surrounding himself with current and future jazz stars, ranging from Hiromi to the current band that delivered a wide ranging 90 minute set at the packed Broad Stage.
Strapping on his electric bass, Clarke brought up on stage the young and eager team of Beka Gochiashvill/p-key, Caleb Sean McCampbell/key and Cedric Moore/dr for a foot stomping fusion opener. Clarke appeared energized by the young bucks, and the inspiration seemed mutually returned.
Switching to acoustic bass, Clarke brought up on stage Jessica Vautor, who brought earthy warm voice to the festivities, and last minute write-in Salar Nader, who’s tablas added extra sizzle to the celebrative “Brazilian Love Affair.”
Clarke then brought the mood into a mellow chamber affair with a nimble fingered work of the pastoral “Spain” which had him bowing and picking out rich melodies and solos wile Gochiasvill’s romantic piano flowed through the open spaces. The piece stretched out to create a myriad of musical combinations, ranging from a ping pong duet between bass, piano and tablas, to Nader’s konnakol vocals adding an extra exotic dimension to the opus.
Things got rich and intimate with a bass duet with vocalist Natasha Agrama for a yearning “Lover Man” before the band returned with a deep rivulet of a grooved “No Mystery.” The fusion classic was stretched and bent in various directions, ranging from Gochiashvill’s classical piano musings to a vocal/synth workout provided by Mitchell and a wrestling match between the leader and drummer Moore,with Nader’s nimble fingers going digit for digit with Clarke’s bass work leading to a rousing climax.
The encore had the entire band reunite along with the closing reliever Chris Clarke add to the street fest atmosphere with a hip hopping “To Be Alive” with the jazz icon leading the audience in song and foot stomping electric bass work.
I’ve seen Stanley Clarke about 6 times the past few years, and never in the same band combination. Surely this man has learned the lesson of taking up the character of your company, in this case the enthusiasm of youth.