Stanley Clarke: School Days (1976)

Kronomyth 4.0: BASS CLASS. From whiz kid to wizard in five short years. On School Days, Stanley Clarke steps out of the shadow of Return To Forever to show us what he’s learned. Suffice to say that fusion fans took note(s). School Days is set up to showcase the many sides of Stanley: fusion, funk, smooth, classical, acoustic, R&B. For progressive fusion fans (i.e., the kind of people who only get jazzed about RTF, Frank Zappa, Brand X, etc.), School Days scores an A+ on the merit of the opening title track alone. “School Days” is basically six feet of genius crammed into eight minutes of music. I walked away from that song thinking that Clarke had found a way to match the best progressive fusion artists of the day and make it look easy. “Quiet Afternoon” explores the romantic/smooth jazz side of Stanley Clarke, though it’s not as painful as you’d think. “The Dance” follows exotic fusion, “Desert Song” journeys into the arid world of acoustic jazz , “Hot Fun” is a crazy funk song that lives up to its name, and “Life Is Just A Game” brings out all the stops in a big fusion finale, including vocals. I didn’t expect an album this varied or accomplished to come from Stanley Clarke; shame on me. You knew he was a major player when you heard RTF, but School Days is really the first time that he shines on his own*. Is it his best record? Well, given what I’ve heard so far, that would be an educated guess. (*Future reality check: School Days is a refinement of his last two albums, which shone fine, but this album is more accessible and isn’t weighed down by multipart suites.)

Original LP Version
A1. School Days (7:50)
A2. Quiet Afternoon (5:05)
A3. The Dance (5:23)
B1. Desert Song (6:53)
B2. Hot Fun (2:50)
B3. Life Is Just A Game (9:00)

All compositions composed, arranged and conducted by Stanley Clarke.

The Players
Stanley Clarke (electric bass guitar, piccolo bass guitar, acoustic bass, acoustic piano, vocals, handbells, gong, chimes), Raymond Gomez (electic guitar), David Sancious (keyboards, mini-moog synthesizer, organ, electric guitar) with Gerry Brown (drums and handbells on tracks 1 & 3), Billy Cobham (drums and moog 1500 on track 6), George Duke (all keyboards on track 6), Steve Gadd (drums on tracks 2 & 5), Milton Holland (percussion on tracks 3 & 4), Icarus Johnson (electric & acoustic guitar on track 6), John McLaughlin (acoustic guitar on track 4). Produced by Stanley Clarke and Ken Scott.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1976 in the US (Nemperor, NE 900) and the UK (Atlantic, K50296); reached #34 on the US charts and #2 on the US Jazz charts. Re-released on CD on January 25, 1999 in the US (Epic, EK 36975).

 

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