Stanley Clarke

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For the British swimmer, see Stanley Clarke (swimmer). For the English businessman, see Stanley Clarke (businessman).
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke on tour in rgw Netherlands.jpg
Clarke, touring with George Duke in The Netherlands
Background information
Born (1951-06-30) June 30, 1951 (age 65)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
United States
Genres Jazz, jazz fusion, funk, rock, pop, R&B
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, film scorer
Instruments Double bass, electric bass, piano, organ, vocals
Years active 1966–present
Labels Mack Avenue Records, Polydor, Epic, Jazz Door, Heads Up International, Columbia, Sony, Portrait, Nemperor, IMS
Associated acts Return to Forever, Chick Corea, Jeff Beck, Clarke/Duke Project, SMV, Animal Logic, George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty
Notable instruments

Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature

Carl Thompson Basses
Clarke with Return to Forever, Onondaga Community College Syracuse, NY, 1974

Stanley Clarke (born June 30, 1951) is an American jazz musician and composer known for his innovative and influential work on double bass and electric bass as well as for his numerous film and television scores. He is best known for his work with the fusion band Return to Forever, and his role as a bandleader in several trios and ensembles.

Early life and education[edit]

Clarke was born in Philadelphia. He was introduced to the bass as a schoolboy when he arrived late on the day instruments were distributed to students and acoustic bass was one of the few remaining selections.[1] A graduate of Roxborough High School in Philadelphia, he attended the Philadelphia Musical Academy, (which was absorbed into the University of the Arts in 1985) from which he graduated in 1971. He then moved to New York City and began working with famous bandleaders and musicians including Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck,[2] Dexter Gordon, Gato Barbieri, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders, Gil Evans and Stan Getz.[3]

Clarke was a member of the Church of Scientology,[4] but is no longer involved.[5] His earlier musical productions would often reference L. Ron Hubbard on their LP sleeves.


During the 1970s Clarke joined the jazz fusion group Return to Forever led by pianist and synth player Chick Corea. The group became one of the most important fusion groups and released several albums that achieved both mainstream popularity and critical acclaim. Clarke also started his solo career in the early 1970s and released a number of albums under his own name. His best known solo album is School Days (1976), which, along with Jaco Pastorius's self-titled debut, is one of the most influential solo bass recordings in fusion history. His albums Stanley Clarke (1974) and Journey to Love (1975) are also notable.

Scoring film and television[edit]

Clarke began with TV scores for ABC's short-lived series A Man Called Hawk and an Emmy-nominated score for Pee-wee's Playhouse. Clarke then moved on to work as a composer, orchestrator, conductor and performer of scores for such films as: Boyz n the Hood, the biographical film of Tina Turner What's Love Got to Do with It, Passenger 57, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Panther, The Five Heartbeats, Book of Love, Little Big League, and Romeo Must Die. He also scored the Luc Besson- produced/co-written action film, The Transporter, starring Jason Statham and a Michael Jackson video release directed by John Singleton entitled Remember the Time. In the 2000s, he composed music for the Showtime Network program Soul Food.

Right-hand electric bass technique[edit]

When playing electric bass, Clarke places his right hand so that his fingers approach the strings much as they would on an upright bass, but rotated through 90 degrees. To achieve this, his forearm lies above and nearly parallel to the strings, while his wrist is hooked downward at nearly a right angle. For lead and solo playing, his fingers partially hook underneath the strings so that when released, the strings snap against the frets, producing a biting percussive attack. In addition to an economical variation on the funky Larry Graham-style slap-n'-pop technique, Clarke also uses downward thrusts of the entire right hand, striking two or more strings from above with his fingernails (examples of this technique include "School Days", "Rock and Roll Jelly", "Wild Dog", and "Danger Street").


Clarke has long been associated with Alembic basses, and much of his recorded output has been produced on Alembic instruments, particularly a dark-wood-colored custom bass in the Series II body style. These basses are handmade neck-through-body instruments made from a mixture of exotic woods and a proprietary active pickup system that is powered from an external power supply. A Stanley Clarke Signature Model bass guitar is produced by Alembic. Clarke also utilizes full-range amplification for his basses, including two QSC 2050 amplifiers, more in keeping with a keyboardist's rig than a bassist's or guitarists. To extend his melodic range, he also plays on tenor and piccolo basses. Clarke's are usually short scale (78 cm or 30.75"), four string, Carl Thompson or Alembic.

In the late 1970s, Clarke was playing Rick Turner's first graphite neck on his Alembic "Black Beauty" bass, and he decided to have an all composite bass made. He commissioned designer/luthier Tom Lieber to design and build this bass, having purchased one of Lieber's Spider grinder basses in 1979. In 1980 Lieber and Clarke formed the Spellbinder Corporation and produced a limited run of fifty Spellbinder basses. One left-handed bass was built as a gift from Stanley to Paul McCartney. After the run, the molds were destroyed. In 2007 Clarke once again teamed up with Lieber and Rick Turner to reform the Spellbinder Corp. and produce a limited run of 125 of the Spellbinder Bass II, which he played on the RTF reunion tour. Clarke has also played a Ken Smith BT Custom, and a German made Löwenherz Tenor Bass

His current pedalboard consists of a TC Electronic G-System, an MXR Bass Octave Deluxe and an EBS Bass IQ Envelope.


Clarke on tour with Jeff Beck, Amsterdam July 5, 1979

In 2006 Clarke reunited with George Duke and toured with him for the first time in fifteen years. The duo formed the Clarke/Duke Project in 1981. They scored a Top 20 hit with "Sweet Baby" and recorded three albums.

In 2005 Clarke toured as Trio! with Béla Fleck and Jean-Luc Ponty. The U.S. and European tour was nominated for a 2006 Jammy Award in the category of "Tour of the Year."

In the late 1980s, Clarke and drummer Stewart Copeland, of the rock band The Police, formed Animal Logic with singer-songwriter Deborah Holland. He has also played with Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham and Al Di Meola.

Night School[edit]

Early in 2007, Clarke's own Roxboro Entertainment Group released a DVD entitled Night School: An Evening with Stanley Clarke and Friends (HUDV-7118) through the Heads Up International label. The 90-minute presentation documents the third annual Stanley Clarke Scholarship Concert, recorded at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA, in October 2002. The group offers scholarships to students in financial need who excel in music. The Night School DVD scholarship concert features diverse group of musicians that include Stevie Wonder, Wallace Roney, Bela Fleck, Sheila E., Stewart Copeland, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, Wayman Tisdale, Marcus Miller and others. Night School captures performances that range from straight-ahead jazz to full-tilt rock fusion to a twenty-two-piece string ensemble.


Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten in the SMV Thunder Tour at Stockholm Jazz Festival, 2009

Since the 1980s, Clarke has turned much of his energy to television and film scores. He is credited for the scores for the ABC Family Channel series Lincoln Heights as well as composing the theme song for the show. In October 2006, Clarke was honored with Bass Player magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award. Bassists Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten presented the award at a ceremony at New York City's Millennium Broadway Hotel. Stanley who won a Grammy Award in 1975 was the first "Jazzman of the Year" for Rolling Stone magazine, won "Best Bassist" from Playboy magazine for 10 straight years, and is a member of Guitar Player magazine's "Gallery of Greats." He was honored with the Key to the city of Philadelphia and put his hands in cement as a 1999 inductee into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Sunset Boulevard. In 2004 he was featured in Los Angeles magazine as one of the 50 most influential people.

BET-J launched a series hosted by Clarke entitled On the Road with Stanley Clarke in June 2006. The series consists of seven episodes titled "Origins of Black Music," "That Philly Sound," "Jazz Beyond the Classroom," "Black Music in Film, Television & Theatre," "Jazz," "Black Music in Film – The Next Generation:" and "Bass to Bass." Some of his guests include Terence Blanchard, Marcus Miller, George Duke, The Tate Brothers, Gamble and Huff, and academicians Dr. Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje and Dr. Cheryl Keyes from the Department of Ethnomusicology at UCLA among many others. On the Road with Stanley Clarke episodes were re-broadcast on BET-J in 2007. In 2008, Stanley was presented with a doctorate in fine arts from his alma mater, The University of the Arts. He has three children (Chris and two stepchildren, Natasha and Frank).

Recent records[edit]

Clarke's latest records include The Toys of Men in 2007. This was his first release in five years, on October 17, 2007. The first week of release it went to No.2 on Billboard charts' Contemporary Jazz Chart. The 13-track CD examines the issue of war, and it includes performances by vocalist/bassist Esperanza Spalding, keyboardist Ruslan Sirota, percussionist Paulinho da Costa and violinist Mads Tolling. The Toys of Men includes acoustic bass interludes that provide a counterpoint to Clarke's better known electric bass attack. 2009 saw his release of Jazz in the Garden, featuring the Stanley Clarke Trio: with Clarke, pianist Hiromi Uehara, and Lenny White on drums. In 2010, Clarke released the Stanley Clarke Band, with Ruslan Sirota on keyboards and piano and Ronald Bruner, Jr. on drums; the album also features Hiromi on piano (as a guest artist), along with many others.[6] On February 13, the Stanley Clarke Band won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.



Title Label Year
Children of Forever Polydor 1973
Stanley Clarke Nemperor 1974
Journey to Love Nemperor 1975
School Days Nemperor 1976
Modern Man Nemperor 1978
I Wanna Play for You Nemperor 1979
Rocks, Pebbles and Sand Epic 1980
Let Me Know You Epic 1982
Time Exposure Epic 1984
Find Out! Epic 1985
Hideaway Epic 1986
If This Bass Could Only Talk Portrait 1988
Live 1976–1977 Epic 1991
Passenger 57 Epic 1992
The Collection Castle Communications, British import 1992
East River Drive Epic 1993
The Rite of Strings Gai Saber 1995
At the Movies Epic Soundtrax 1995
The Bass-ic Collection Sony 1997
1, 2, to the Bass Sony 2003
The Toys of Men Heads Up 2007
Jazz in the Garden Heads Up 2009
The Stanley Clarke Band Heads Up 2010
Up Mack Avenue 2014
Live at the Greek Epic 1993 [7]

Return to Forever[edit]

Title Label Year Type
Return to Forever ECM 1972 Studio
Light as a Feather Polydor 1972 Studio
Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy Polydor 1973 Studio
Where Have I Known You Before Polydor 1974 Studio
No Mystery Polydor 1975 Studio
Romantic Warrior Columbia 1976 Studio
Musicmagic Columbia 1977 Studio
Return to Forever, Live Columbia 1979 Live
Returns Eagle 2009 Live
Forever [as Corea, Clarke & White] Concord 2011 Live/Studio
The Mothership Returns Eagle 2012 Live
The Best of Return to Forever Columbia 1980 Compilation
This is Jazz, Vol. 12 Sony 1996 Compilation
Return to the 7th Galaxy: Return To Forever Anthology Verve 1996 Compilation
Return to Forever: The Anthology Concord 2008 Compilation
Return to Forever: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection Sony 2011 Compilation

As a co-leader/band member[edit]

As a producer[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Gato Barbieri

With Chick Corea

With Stanley Cowell

With Joe Farrell

With Frank Foster

With Curtis Fuller

With Stan Getz

With Dexter Gordon

With Norman Connors

With Robin Kenyatta

With Hubert Laws

With Airto Moreira

With The New Barbarians

With Pharoah Sanders

With Buddy Terry

With Stan Getz

  • Montreux 1972 (Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2013) CD and DVD, also features Chick Corea and Tony Williams


Feature films[edit]

Year Title Director(s) Studio(s) Notes
1990 The Book of Love Robert Shaye New Line Cinema
1991 The Five Heartbeats Robert Townsend 20th Century Fox
Boyz n the Hood John Singleton Columbia Pictures
Cool as Ice David Kellogg
1992 Passenger 57 Kevin Hooks Warner Bros.
1993 Watch It Tom Flynn Skouras Pictures
What's Love Got to Do with It Brian Gibson Touchstone Pictures
Poetic Justice John Singleton Columbia Pictures
Red Hot Paul Haggis SC Entertainment International
1994 Little Big League Andrew Scheinman Castle Rock Entertainment
1995 Higher Learning John Singleton Columbia Pictures
Panther Mario Van Peebles PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
The Show Brian Robbins Savoy Pictures
Bleeding Hearts Gregory Hines Savoy Pictures
1996 Eddie Steve Rash Hollywood Pictures
1997 Dangerous Ground Darrell Roodt New Line Cinema
B*A*P*S Robert Townsend New Line Cinema
Sprung Rusty Cundieff Trimark Pictures
1998 Down in the Delta Maya Angelou Miramax
1999 The Best Man Malcolm D. Lee Universal Pictures
2000 Romeo Must Die Andrzej Bartkowiak Warner Bros.
2002 Undercover Brother Malcolm D. Lee Universal Pictures
Undisputed Walter Hill Miramax
2005 Into the Sun Christopher Morrison Destination Films Direct-to-video film
Roll Bounce Malcolm D. Lee Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Transporter Louis Leterrier
Corey Yuen
2006 Like Mike 2: Streetball David Nelson 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Direct-to-video film
2008 First Sunday David E. Talbert Screen Gems
Soul Men Malcolm D. Lee Dimension Films
2013 The Best Man Holiday Malcolm D. Lee Universal Pictures
2016 Barbershop: The Next Cut Malcolm D. Lee Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer


  • Lincoln Heights 2006 – present
  • Soul Food 2000–2004, directed by Felicia D. Henderson
  • Tales from the Crypt Episode: "Fitting Punishment", 1990, directed by Jack Sholder, Joel Silver

Television movies[edit]

  • Murder She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle 2003

directed by Anthony Pullen Shaw

  • The Big Time 2002

directed by Paris Barclay

  • Little John (Hallmark Hall of Fame) 2002

directed by Dick Lowry

  • The Red Sneakers 2002

directed by Gregory Hines

  • Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man 2001

directed by Anthony Pullen Shaw

  • The Color of Friendship 2000

directed by Kevin Hooks

  • The Loretta Claiborne Story 2000

directed by Lee Grant

directed by Charles Winkler

  • Funny Valentines 1999

directed by Julie Dash

  • If You Believe 1999

directed by Alan Metzger

  • Love Kills 1998

directed by Brian Grant

  • On the Line 1998

directed by Elodie Keene

  • Road to Galveston 1996

directed by Michael Toshiyuki Uno

  • The Cherokee Kid 1996

directed by Paris Barclay

  • Royce 1994

directed by Rob Holcomb

  • Relentless: Mind of a Killer 1993

directed by John Patterson

  • Boy Meets Girl 1993

directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan

directed by Charles Braverman

  • Prison Stories: Women on the Inside 1991

directed by Donna Deitch, Joan Micklin Silver, Penelope Spheeris

  • The Kid Who Loved Christmas 1990

directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman

  • The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson 1990

directed by Larry Peerce

  • Blue Bayou 1990

directed by Karen Arthur

  • Dangerous Pursuit 1990

directed by Sandor Stern

  • Tales from the Whoop 1990

directed by Whoopi Goldberg

  • 'Out on the Edge 1989

directed by John Pasquin


  • Static Shock 2000

directed by Denys Cowan, Dan Riba

  • Waynehead (1996–1997)

directed by Damon Wayans

  • Cool Like That Christmas 1994

directed by David Feiss, Swinton O. Scott III

Music videos[edit]

  • "Michael Jackson: Remember the Time" 1992

directed by John Singleton


  • Meet Bob Shaye 2004

directed by Jeffery Schwartz

  • Maryanne e gli altri (Italy) 1995

directed by Ita Cesa, Giuseppe Selva


  1. ^ Clarke, Stanley. "Stanley Clarke: A Lyrical Bass Player". NPR. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  2. ^ thodoris. "Interview:Stanley Clarke (solo,Return to Forever,SMV)". Hit Channel. 
  3. ^ "Stanley Clarke @ All About Jazz". Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International Celebrates 43rd Anniversary". August 25, 2012. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  5. ^ "The Massive List of Celebrities That Departed Scientology". The Morton Report. August 11, 2013. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  6. ^ Concord Music Group. "The Stanley Clarke Band". Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ " | The Official Website of Stanley Clarke". Retrieved 4 August 2016. 

External links[edit]