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Stanley Clarke at Detroit Jazz Fest, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Stanley Clarke laughs when the inevitable question comes up -- about rain.

The bass virtuoso's performances at the Detroit Jazz Festival have been rained out twice, in 2014 and 2017. This year all concerned are hoping the third time's a charm as Clarke, 68, is serving as the Artist in Residence, with three very different performances slated over Labor Day Weekend to celebrate the festival's 40th anniversary.

Clarke will be joined on this year's bill by six of his Artist in Resident predecessors -- Regina Carter, Ron Carter (no relation), Pat Metheny, Danilo Perez, Terrance Blanchard and Joshua Redman. His own offerings, however, will take audiences on a tour throughout his career and the various sounds that have made him an icon not only in jazz but all of music -- and hopefully without getting washed out...

Clarke's "Back to School Days" set, on Friday, Aug. 30, "is going to be kind of looking back at my stuff in the 70s and 80s, up through this time, some things I did with George Duke and that my traveling band and I go out with. That's more of the funkier kind of jazz-rock stuff. That's gonna be real nice."

Clarke, a Philadelphia native whose electric career also includes a tenure in the all-star Return to Forever, follows on Saturday, Aug. 31, with "just a straight-ahead" jazz set on which he'll play upright acoustic bass. "Before all the stuff I got famous for I had a pretty long, decent-sized career just as a jazz bass player, before electric bass -- Horace Silver, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, that whole thing I had going. There were some people from that world that weren't too happy about my (electric) work."

Clarke's marquee appearance, meanwhile, will be playing selections from his score for the late John Singleton's 1991 film "Boyz in the Hood," a multi-media presentation with the Detroit Jazz Festival String Orchestra on Monday, Sept. 2. "I saw John Williams do a show at the Hollywood Bowl of all of his great film themes, with pictures going at the same time, and I thought, 'Man, this is fantastic!' I've scored a lot of movies that were box office successes -- "Romeo Must Die," the Transporter movies, the Tina Turner movie ('What's Love Got to Do With It'), but for some reason 'Boyz In the Hood,' internationally, seems to resonate with people, particularly young people who wish they were around about the time of that movie. It's got kind of a cult following, and I've had orchestras around the world approach my agent, 'Can we do something with Stanley and 'Boyz In the Hood,' get rappers' and everything. I held off on it 'cause I didn't have it organized in my head. Now it's organized. This will be the first one I've done with this movie, but I'm sure it will develop into something I'll probably do more of in the future."

Singleton passed away on April 28, at the age of 51 and after Clarke's "Boyz in the Hood" concert was announced, which will make Monday's performance something of a memorial "It was shocking; I don't think I've fully digested John's passing. It came so quick. I heard he was sick, was in a coma and all of a sudden he passed. I just couldn't believe it -- he had such an unusually invincible type of personality. He was a real passive, quiet guy but he was one of those characters where you thought, 'Oh, God, he'll live 500 years or something.'" Clarke performed a piece he composed for Singleton's "Poetic Justice" a memorial service for the director in Los Angeles."

Of the Detroit Jazz Festival in general, Clarke says that, "It reminds me of the great European festival. The thing that distinguishes the Detroit Jazz Festival, as well as the Newport Jazz Festival, is they actually have what you would call 'real' jazz musicians there. It's hard; Jazz is kind of an undefined word today, there's so many different kinds of jazz. What I like about this festival is they have it all. They don't sort of narrow it down to just Smooth Jazz or Swing Jazz. They cover pretty much everything."

The 40th annual Detroit Jazz Festival takes place Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Hart Plaza and in Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit. Admission is free. VIP and other packages are available. detroitjazzfest.com.

Web Site: www.detroitjazzfest.org

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