Is Stanley Clarke the Rosa Parks of the electric bass?
With all the Victor Wootens, Michael Manrings and Marcus Millers out there, it’s easy to forget that not so very long ago, the electric bass was relegated to the back of the musical bus: While the lead instrumentalists frolicked in the spotlight, the bassist’s job was to do little more than keep time with the drummer and lay down simple grooves.
Then came Stanley Clarke. With the possible exception of Jaco Pastorius, no musician has done more than Clarke to help establish the bass guitar as a lead instrument in its own right. In the early ’70s, Clarke—previously known for his work with the fusion group Return to Forever as well as with jazz players like Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Art Blakey and Pharoah Sanders—took flight as a solo artist. Though it was almost unheard-of for a bass player to act as the leader of a band, Clarke’s undeniable skills made short work of the naysayers’ prejudices.