Stanley Clarke ‎- 1973 – Children Of Forever

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Quite possibly the hippest album that Stanley Clarke ever cut – a stretched-out soulful batch of jazz-tinged tracks – very much in the same spirit as the more righteous soul jazz underground of the time! In a way, the record would be much more at home on a label like Strata East than it would at Polydor – thanks to vocals from Andy Bey and Dee Dee Bridgewater  and a group lineup that includes Pat Martino on guitars, Art Webb on flute, Lenny White on drums, and Chick Corea on keyboards!

Corea produced, and there’s a bit of the free-floating style of Return To Forever here – but the overall vibe is a lot more soulful too, and reminds us a fair bit of some of the earliest work by Norman Connors or Carlos Garnett – both of whom used Bridgewater as a vocalist in similar settings.

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Review by Thom Jurek

Stanley Clarke’s debut solo effort was issued when he was already a seasoned jazz veteran, and a member of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, which at the time of this recording also included Joe Farrell on soprano sax and flute, and the Brazilian team of vocalist Flora Purim and drummer/percussionist Airto Moreira. Produced by Corea, who plays Rhodes, clavinet, and acoustic piano on Children of Forever, the band included flutist Art Webb, then-new RtF drummer Lenny White, guitarist Pat Martino, and a vocal pairing in the inimitable Andy Bey and Dee Dee Bridgewater on three of the five cuts — Bey appears on four. Clarke plays both electric and acoustic bass on the set; and while it would be easy to simply look at this recording as an early fusion date, that would be a tragic mistake. If anything, Children of Forever is a true cousin to Norman Connors’ classic Dance of Magic and Dark of Light albums, which were also released in 1973; Clarke played bass on both. This is basically funky, spiritual jazz in the best sense. Yes, jazz. That wonderfully mercurial, indefinable force that brings into itself the whole of music, from popular to classical and folk forms, and makes something new out of them. The long title track with its killer vocal interplay between Bridgewater andBey is seductive from the jump. Add Clarke’s big fat bassline, which is mellow and meaty at the beginning, but after the long piano and guitar breaks in the middle becomes dirty, fuzzy, and spacy by the end as the cut leans into souled-out funk.

The “message” tunes that make up this music balance the dawning of the future as the logical place of Black consciousness — where a new day was indeed emerging from the struggles of the ’50s and ’60s. Add to this the cosmic looking cover, and its weighed electric and acoustic underpinnings, and you have the makings of a timeless classic. Indeed, no matter how one feels about Clarke’s later work, which aimed for the harder and funkier realms of disco and urban soul as well as keeping his jazz chops intact, this disc in every sense is forward-looking and memorable. Bridgewater’s lead vocal interaction with Webb’s flute on “Unexpected Days“, with Bey helping on the bridge and refrain, is awe-inspiring. The ensemble is focused on “song.” Corea’s has rarely sounded so naturally funky as he does here and his production is free of the hard, sometimes brittle sound he would employ with the Al DiMeola-Lenny White version of RtF.

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The centerpiece of the disc is a vehicle for Clarke, called “Bass Folk Song“. At nearly eight minutes, Clarke plays both upright and electric bass, sometimes employing a wah wah pedal on the former. It shows his virtuosity; he could literally make either instrument sing.Corea is fantastic in his supporting role, playing fills and vamps behind the bassist and Martino — who also has never sounded so nasty as he does here on electric guitar and 12-string acoustic — they’re full of innovative rhythms and eclectic harmonics. And White is simply a powerhouse, breaking beats and taking Clarke for a real ride in almost unconscious rhythmic interplay.

The last half of the set is equally wonderful with the ballad “Butterfly Dreams” that launches into something wholly other by its midpoint, and never loses sight of its melody, lush harmonics, and very real sense of abstract swing. Clarke propels the ensemble from the bass chair, and allows everyone the room to blend into that big wood sound he gets on his upright. Bey’s vocal performance on the cut is one of his best on record. The set closes with Corea’s “Sea Journey“, the longest track here, coming in at over 16 minutes. There is quite a bit of improvisation here as one might expect, with Corea playing intense Latin contrapuntal melodies on his Rhodes and clavinet — even moving into descarga at one point — and Bridgewater and Bey stretching their vocals to drape the music; their pairing is utterly elegant, soulful, and lovely. Clarke and White are a force maejure as a rhythm section, they push and entwine with one another in a dance of double, triple, and half-time beats and pulses, bringing a sense of not only movement but travel to the proceedings without ever leaving the groove.

The beautiful front line of Corea and Webb in the head and during the middle section is subtle and haunting; it literally drifts, anchored only by the rhythm section that keeps them from lifting off into more modal explorations.Martino is free to fill, solo, vamp, and project. Clarke’s bowed bass fiddle solo, which interplays withBey’s vocal, is brave and deeply moving; there isn’t a trace of gimmickry in it (or anywhere else on this set, for that matter). Like the aforementioned Connors’ recordings, Children of Forever has aged exceedingly well, and sounds as warm, inviting, and full of possibility in the early 21st century as it did in the early ’70s.

It’s full of heart, soul, passion, and truly inspired musicianship.

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Conversation for album: Stanley Clarke ‎- 1973 – Children Of Forever

20 Comments
  • Pavlos
    Posted at 11:35h, 20 February 2016 Reply

    Spectacular. Love it.

  • Frederick
    Posted at 11:46h, 20 February 2016 Reply

    One of my all time favorite Stanley tunes! Dee Dee fits perfectly.

  • Radolph
    Posted at 15:11h, 20 February 2016 Reply

    A masterpiece.

  • Mick
    Posted at 16:40h, 20 February 2016 Reply

    Thanks for this truely underrated album….I had the vinyl once upon a time…..

  • Radiodays
    Posted at 20:09h, 20 February 2016 Reply

    A lot of great masters on this record. Excellent one.

  • BG
    Posted at 15:28h, 21 February 2016 Reply

    baaad!

  • Mason
    Posted at 00:11h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    The Power of Fusion

  • daba
    Posted at 01:16h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    Thank you for this. Have a bass player[28] that I met. Just gave quite a bit for him to listen to. But did not have this. I started with his self titled album in 1974!
    Peace,Love & Blessings
    daba

  • Mamute
    Posted at 10:18h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    Looking forward to get this one. Many thanks. Actually no words are enough to explain my appreciation of the legacy you contribute to..

  • Elton
    Posted at 10:57h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    Niko thank you for this precious gift!!

  • Frank
    Posted at 16:33h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    So good so funky the whole album is just brilliant …..

  • Victor
    Posted at 16:36h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    thanks fellas for another gem!

  • Rex
    Posted at 18:42h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    i’m so grateful for all the amazing stuff and hard work you put on this site.

  • Leroy
    Posted at 21:04h, 22 February 2016 Reply

    Ur right, this LP is a monster. Thank you for sharing it

  • Rick Anderson
    Posted at 12:06h, 23 February 2016 Reply

    goosebumps, ive got nothing moore to say

  • A.R.
    Posted at 13:11h, 24 February 2016 Reply

    oooh missed that one. excellent stuff.

  • Nothingelse
    Posted at 13:20h, 24 February 2016 Reply

    Timeless.

  • Pusherman
    Posted at 10:21h, 25 February 2016 Reply

    smooth……………….he puts you in the moment………………

  • Wystery
    Posted at 12:18h, 27 February 2016 Reply

    Thumbs up

  • angel
    Posted at 01:23h, 01 March 2016 Reply

    Amazing. I love it!

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