This is not the Stanley Clarke I remember. I remember Stanley Clarke in the 1970s and 1980s recording Jazz-Rock fusion and collaborating with the giants of the day, such as Chick Corea, Al Dimeola, and George Duke. He was all that was new and modern with his electric bass and his giant afro and his talking guitar. The albums he recorded with Return to Forever are among the best of the genre.
Friday night at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston, IL, Clarke began as the electric jazz hero. Now in his mid-60s, he no longer sports the afro, but he retains the energy of his early days.
Clarke began the show, electric bass in hand, playing songs reminiscent of his fusion heyday. But halfway through his set, he swapped the electric bass guitar for an upright bass. One song later, his keyboardist slid from an electric keyboard set to a baby grand and suddenly the jazz was more straight ahead. And more sweet. The music ranged from fusion to funk to bee bop, including a few bars of Coltrane's classic "A Love Supreme".
His quartet consisted of 2 keyboardists, a drummer, and Stanley himself. The 3 others were between a third and a half Clarke's age, but they blended really well and Clarke still brings the energy of his own youth.
Clarke ended with an frenetic encore that included a call and response with the crowd.
His drummer - Mike Mitchell, aka "Blaque Dynamite" - was especially impressive.
Based on the energy and enthusiasm I saw Friday night, I expect Stanley Clarke will be entertaining audiences for a long time.