About Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke is an American bassist, film composer and founding member of Return to Forever, one of the first jazz fusion bands. Clarke gave the bass guitar a prominence it lacked in jazz-related music. He is the first jazz-fusion bassist to headline tours, sell out shows worldwide and have recordings reach gold status.
Clarke is a 5-time Grammy winner, with 15 nominations, 3 as a solo artist, 1 with the Stanley Clarke Band, and 1 with Return to Forever. Clarke was selected to become a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship.
A Stanley Clarke electric bass is permanently on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Clarke was born on June 30, 1951 in Philadelphia. His mother sang opera around the house, belonged to a church choir, and encouraged him to study music. He started on accordion, then tried violin. But he felt awkward holding such a small instrument in his big hands when he was twelve years old and over six feet tall. No one wanted the acoustic bass in the corner, so he picked it up. He took lessons on double bass at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, beginning with five years of classical music. He picked up bass guitar in his teens so that he could perform at parties and imitate the rock and pop bands that girls liked.
Clarke attended the Philadelphia Musical Academy and after graduating moved to New York City in 1971. His recording debut was with Curtis Fuller. He worked with Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders, then in 1972 with Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, and Art Blakey, followed by Gil Evans, Mel Lewis, and Horace Silver.
Clarke intended to become the first black musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra until he met jazz pianist Chick Corea. In 1973, he and Corea founded the band Return to Forever. The first edition of Return to Forever performed primarily Latin-oriented music. This band consisted of singer Flora Purim, her husband Airto Moreira on drums and percussion, Corea's longtime musical co-worker Joe Farrell on saxophone and flute, and Clarke on bass. Their first album, titled Return to Forever, was recorded for ECM Records in 1972. Their second album, Light as a Feather , was released by Polydor and included the song "Spain".
After the second album, Farrell, Purim and Moreira left the group to form their own band, and guitarist Bill Connors, drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Mingo Lewis were added. Lenny White replaced Gadd and Lewis on drums and percussion, and the group's third album, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy , was released.
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