If you haven’t heard of Stanley Clarke then you’ll almost certainly be familiar with some of the musicians with whom he’s worked. Since emerging in the early ’70s the Philadelphia bassist has played with the likes of The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, Dave Brubeck and The Police’s Stewart Copeland.
As a composer he’s also found the time to score soundtracks for numerous television series and films, including Boyz N The Hood and Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It.
Chances are, however, that most people attending his first ever gig in Leeds are at the Brudenell because of his 1976 album School Days. Considered to be one of the most influential solo bass recordings in jazz-fusion history, it features the percussive slap funk technique he helped to pioneer.
It’s a style that’s much in evidence during this two-hour set as he swaps between an electric and double bass, repeatedly flexing his arm after a particularly taxing passage. In treating the bass as the lead instrument he fully utilises its potential, playing it with a bow at one point and at another tapping the wooden body percussively.
Despite this there’s plenty of scope for his three band mates – whose collective age is less than his 66 years – to hold their own.
Frequently given space to take centre stage, Mike Mitchell’s artillery fire drumming leaves dents in his cymbals while keyboardist Caleb McCambell ad-libs occasional wordless vocalisations. Before covering ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, meanwhile, pianist Beka Gochiashvili adds atmospheric backing to Clarke’s story about how Charles Mingus came to write it (“I need a diminished chord, please,” he jokingly instructs).
There may have been a wait of over 40 years to see him but his fans certainly don’t leave disappointed.