Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stanley Clarke trio (Stanley, Lenny White and Hiromi) studio recording coming soon

What I heard coming from the mixing board late last Sunday night at Mad Hatter Studios was the deconstructed melody line of a very familiar tune. It took me a few seconds after walking through the door before I recognized it as the Red Hot Chili Peppers' tune "Under the Bridge". It got me to smile as I recalled a similar musical incongruity listening to a radically re-arranged tune a few years ago... "We decided when we were planning this tour that we needed to do a standard as part of our set," Lenny White dead-panned as he introduced the number that night. When he put the mic back on its stand and joined Larry Coryell and Victor Bailey in a de- and re-constructed version of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", the contextual atmosphere of Catalina's Bar and Grill (Hollywood's counterpart of New York's Blue Note) was so completely different from any setting for my previous hearings of the tune that it took me until the refrain to recognize it. And when I did, man, did I listen to it!

Such is the power of well-played music. Finely wrought jazz, particularly in the bop tradition of deconstruction of a familiar tune, can wield this power with great force. This incorporation of popular tunes, interpretation of the simplicities of the everyday into the sophisticated language of jazz, reawakens the senses to the world, and deconstructing a tune, when done with musical precision, results in a kind of musical re-birth that can teach the listener to hear what he's never heard before. It makes the ordinary extraordinary. It wakes the dead. Like John Coltrane's take of "My Favorite Things" or Miles Davis' many renditions of "Someday My Prince Will Come", two songs written for Walt Disney movies and rescued from trite musical oblivion by artistic geniuses, such jazz compositions grab a real listener by the ears and take him through expanded realms of expression. Everything old is new again.

So as I listened to these three geniuses reinvigorating and reinventing "Under the Bridge" the thought came to me, once again, that something truly new was happening. Hiromi's lyrical solo began to soar beyond the sad sentiments of the original song of a junkie's lament into a paen to the beautiful, brave new streets of my home town of Los Angeles. Incredible! Like a magnificent sculpture being freed by Michelangelo's hands from a block of stone, the original's beautiful melody was freed from its maundering lyric by these three masterful musicians and transformed into a jazzer's "I Love L.A....Despite Her Many Serious Flaws". Los Angeles through Hiromi's and Stanley's and Lenny's eyes is a new place, or at least a place I had long forgotten exists. This tune never sounded so good.

Other tunes on t
he recording (barring Mr. Clarke's disapproval, in accordance with his exacting tastes) will include a mind-blowing version of Joe Henderson's "Isotope", "Bass Folk Song," a re-visited tune of his own from the original Return To Forever catalog, a jazzed version of the traditional Japanese song "Sakura, Sakura", and a killer bass and drum duet with Lenny called "Take the Coltrane" -- of which I heard three takes and liked them all. The very last is probably what you will hear when Stanley releases the record, but whichever one it is, you will like it. Stanley's exquisite touch on the bass and Lenny's endlessly imaginitive drum work go different places each time, and I wish you could hear them all. But no matter. This composition has one of those indestructible hooks that sounded good every time Stanley and Lenny played it.

When this recording shows up, you could very well pinch pennies and wait around for some website to post a set of MP3 files for you to download. But my advice is, go buy it. Play it on a real CD player and listen to it through big, fat speakers. This music is alive.

By the way... over the weekend, a confident-ial but unim-peachable source told me that he had just received advance copies of the 2CD Return To Forever 2008 reunion tour compilation and the accompanying performance DVD. He'd been busy and said he hadn't had the chance to see/hear them, but he assured me they now exist. For real. It's only a matter of time before me and thee will have the same chance.

Merry Christmas to all!

1 comment:

Paul said...

Great news, look forward to this
b rgds