Al­bum reviews

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THE STAN­LEY CLARKE BAND Up (Mack Av­enue) Band­leader and bass master Stan­ley Clarke fol­lows his 2010 Grammy-win­ning al­bum, The Stan­ley Clarke Band, with a suit­ably vig­or­ous col­lec­tion of mostly orig­i­nals. In ad­di­tion to stal­wart band­mates Rus­lan Sirota (pi­ano) and Ron­ald Bruner Jr. (drums), Up fea­tures an im­pos­ing list of col­lab­o­ra­tors. The big-name guests are Ste­wart Copeland, Joe Walsh, and Chick Corea, but the di­verse par­tic­i­pants in­clude a vo­cal choir and the Har­lem String Quar­tet. So in­tent are th­ese mu­si­cians on prov­ing their vir­tu­os­ity that the lis­tener might won­der if Clarke were pay­ing his per­form­ers by the note. The sec­ond track, “Last Train to San­ity,” dou­bles through its ti­tle as a sort of warn­ing — there’s no turn­ing back from the wall-of-sound wiz­ardry that char­ac­ter­izes this song and those that en­sue. Mu­si­cal in­ten­sity and in­tri­cacy reach an apex with the only nono­rig­i­nal on the al­bum, “Brazil­ian Love Af­fair,” which is ded­i­cated to its late com­poser, George Duke. But the high­light of this al­bum, some­what para­dox­i­cally (con­sid­er­ing the star power on dis­play), is a se­ries of three solo tracks on which Clarke al­ter­nates be­tween acous­tic bass and Alembic elec­tric tenor bass. Else­where on Up, one can of­ten feel as if the play­ers are too in­sis­tent on prov­ing their al­ready-es­tab­lished prow­ess, but Clarke’s solo pieces come across as most im­pres­sive be­cause they fully cap­ture the bassist’s amaz­ing fi­nesse and sub­tlety. — Loren Bienvenu MEDESKI SCOFIELD MARTIN & WOOD Juice (Indi­recto Records) Gui­tarist John Scofield’s on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with beat-minded im­pro­vi­sa­tion trio Medeski Martin & Wood has al­ways been about fit and bal­ance. Be­gin­ning with A Go Go in 1998, Scofield gave MMW — a combo in which each in­stru­men­tal­ist is a soloist — another solo voice. But he’s also wise to the key­board-bass­drums-rhythm-sec­tion side of the band. Juice is some­thing like A Go Go in its retro ’60s ma­te­rial, its Latin in­flu­ence, and its tight, in­sis­tent beats. This lat­est MSM&W col­lab­o­ra­tion has a dis­tinc­tive pop fla­vor, pulling from Top 40 psychedelia and coun­ter­cul­ture protest mu­sic as well as the soul jazz move­ment. Ed­die Har­ris’ “Sham Time” runs on a re­lent­less shuf­fle as Scofield seems to mar­vel at the melody, find­ing its flow and em­bel­lish­ing lit­tle. The gui­tarist shame­lessly rocks out to a “Louie Louie” riff on the group’s orig­i­nal “Juicy Lucy.” The mu­si­cians play the Doors’ “Light My Fire” straight, stick­ing closely to the melody while am­pli­fy­ing the 4/4 beat. Scofield cap­tures some of Mor­ri­son’s vo­cal style in his phras­ing as well as some of the singer’s un­pre­dictable emo­tion. Cream’s “Sun­shine of Your Love” soft­ens up the orig­i­nal’s mil­i­taris­tic beat with a reg­gae groove. Bob Dy­lan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” is self-con­sciously rev­er­ent, with Medeski sound­ing church chords on or­gan and Scofield play­ing con­sid­ered quotes from Dy­lan’s lyric. What hap­pened to the groove? — Bill Kohlhaase

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