Stanley Clarke at the Dakota Jazz Club, 3/15/11
Lately the roads have been dangerous enough in the land of 10,000 potholes of Minneapolis. Then the Dakota had to go and invite two of the most thumping, out of hand bass players, Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten to town to further rattle the pavement for two sold out sets Tuesday night. But to "jazz fusion" fans(yes there are people that really like this kind of music) you'd of thought the messiah was coming as we approached the jam packed, standing room only, people crowding the lobby and sidewalk kind of event that happened last night at the Dakota.
Victor Wooten's set exemplified musical brotherly love as his two brothers Regi and Joseph on guitar and keyboards respectively along with Derico Watson on drums are part of the group. The set was steeped heavily in material from his debut solo record A Show of Hands , which Wooten and company are celebrating the 15th anniversary with a series of performances and remastered with bonus tracks reissue on record store shelves and at the merch booth last night. Combining the electricity of not only their instruments but Wooten's percussive approach to his bass as echoed by Regi's style of guitar playing the band not only showed their skills but dove into subtle nods to their own influences. Amidst the barrage of grooves on stage were passages from 70's R&B staples "Love Rollercoaster", "Ladie's Night" as well as a short tribute to Michael Jackson which included the funkiest version I've heard of "I Want You Back" since Shirley Scott did it on her back in 1970 record, Something .
Most well known as bassist for fusion all star band Return to Forever and for his classic 70's jazz masterpiece album School Days Clarke also worked with Victor Wooten in the bass trio, SMV with Marcus Miller. After playing at the Dakota for a subdued set of duets with pianist Hiromi last year Stanley Clarke returned with a new group some of which were featured on his latest and recent Grammy winning release The Stanley Clarke Band and once they hit the stage things went full throttle.
For the first half of the set Clarke utilized his upright bass. Donning a New York Yankees hat(a fact that had to quickly be forgiven by some in the audience) he guided the band through a number of lush arrangements and improvisations from his extensive catalog. The full band of young players included Isreali born Ruslan Sirota who provided much of the atmosphere and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. who nearly stold the show with his aggressive and polyrhythmic approach. Working his way through some well known Return to Forever material, the aformentioned "School Days" and selected personal favorites of Clarke, Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" and Joe Henderson's "Black Narcissus" the band perfectly complemented Clarke's style of melodic phrasings as he eventually pulled out his famous electric bass further displaying his trademark sound.
The whole night was so electric with such a roster of fantastic players it was almost overwhelming to take it all in actually. There was a roar of applause and praise for these guys that I don't believe is typical of jazz crowds. People were really treating the show like a rock show with fist pumping and devil horns. Such a constant release and feedback of energy in the room really started to feel exhausting and the bands really didn't let up through an encore and the end of the show.
I thought initially Wooten and Clarke would eventually take the stage together for some bass duet workouts but honestly I don't think I could have taken it.
Critic's Bias: Really have a soft spot in my heart for 70's jazz.
The Crowd: Very eager and excited about the electrified talents of these two jazz veterens.
Overheard in the Crowd: "These guys really aren't fuckin' around!"
Random Notebook Dump: Somehow devil horns seemed appropriate, sorry.
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