Album review: STANLEY CLARKE – The Message

STANLEY CLARKE - The Message

Mack Avenue [Release date 29.06.18]

With Stanley Clarke’s rare gigs in the UK in 2017, my interest in his music was rekindled and not least as a result of a lengthy chat for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.

I grew up – musically – in the 1970s and 1980s on a diet of ‘Schooldays’ and other such jazz funk sorties.  When Stanley came to Manchester last year he was very much in jazz mode, with only a hint of former – mainstream – glories.  This theme is continued on the latest album offering.

The short opener ‘And Ya Know We’re Missing You’ with its deep funk vibe is the only concession to the heavy jazz funk purveyed in days of old whilst ‘To Be Alive’ adds Doug E. Fresh’s vocal/rap to bring things more up to date.  He revives the Return To Forever classic ‘After The Cosmic Rain’ and elsewhere the album is punctuated by incredible musicianship and the dual keyboards of Beka Gochiashvili and Cameron Graves who accompanied Clarke on those UK dates.

‘Combat Continuum’ features the spoken word of Steve Blum and is hardly likely to be on repeat play whilst the reflective title track features Pat Leonard on synth textures.  ‘Lost In A World’ is an attractive ballad with spoken words by Mrs. Clarke and one of only two tracks that list a guitar, played both times by Michael Thompson.

As I commented in the live review the lack of rock guitar is now the main distance, and difference, between those frenetic fusion excursions in the seventies.  It’s safe to say that ‘Schooldays’ are over and Clarke’s music has matured to a smoother if spritely  jazz, (as epitomised by ‘Alternative Facts’), but there’s still much here to interest his loyal fanbase.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

Gig review (Manchester, July 2017) and interview


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