Fittingly, jazz great Stanley Clarke’s latest album is titled simply The Stanley Clarke Band. Clarke’s there, with bass in hand, but the material comes as much from his bandmates. The album was, in Clarke’s words, “more of a band album,” one that he hopes brings “some kind of band cohesion with the music.”
Co-produced along with Clarke’s old friend (and musical giant in his own right) Lenny White, the album features keyboardist Ruslan Sirota and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., who have made up Clarke’s principal band for half a decade.
“They’re still both young and they’ve kind of grown up in my band, so I thought it was only fair to give them an opportunity,” said Clarke, catching up by phone from a tour stop in Detroit.
The band will take the stage at the Berklee Performance Center on Sunday along with a featured guest: the 31-year-old, much-buzzed-about pianist Hiromi Uehara, with whom Clarke has been intermittently collaborating.
“Players who can explode at the drop of a dime are my favorite kind of players, because they’re always unpredictable. You never know when they’re going to push the button, and she’s like that,” Clarke said. “I’ve been on stage at times where she’s really exploded, and sometimes when she’s decided not to. For a musician, that shows someone with control.”
Hiromi, who goes by her first name, is a dazzling performer. Her set at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival – in which she asked bandmates to take five while she blazed through a torrid “I Got Rhythm” – is still being talked about among jazz lovers. One of her most recent Boston-area shows, at Scullers in February, was sold out.
Clark says that Hiromi can ascend to even higher peaks by experimenting with different performers and performance settings.
“She’s known very well in Japan, and people are hearing about her here in the States. She needs to go out now and have many different audiences hear her,” Clarke said. “Hiromi is the type of player who can fit with a lot of types of players and audiences.”
Like his old friend Chick Corea and noted talent-nurturer Greg Osby, a veteran saxophonist, Clarke is a believer in passing on jazz tradition and doing his part to grow younger players. He speaks fondly of both Bruner and Sirota, praising their technique, growth and attitudes.
“I and Greg and Chick talk about it all the time, we want to preserve it, move it forward,” he said. “That’s what the older musicians did before us. The music was like a religion to them and they all played with their friends and they all looked around for who was going to be the next guy. It’s very African in a lot of ways, in the sense of sending things forward from previous generations. … I will always be pushing music forward.”
Clarke is keeping busy. It won’t be long before he finds himself immersed in a new project, or, perhaps, returns to an old one with fresh eyes.
In 2008 and 2009, for example, Clarke reunited with White, Corea and guitarist Al Di Meola as the classic lineup of jazz fusion crew Return to Forever, touring for the first time since the early 1980s.
Clarke said that it was a lot of fun and that a return could be on the horizon.
“Me and Chick are talking about Return to Forever 4. The talks are very positive,” Clarke said. “And that’s all I’m going to say right now.” Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.