Although the first Forever disc
features acoustic-jazz instrumentation, you can definitely
hear jazz-fusion thinking
within the straight-ahead stuff.
Yeah. It’s very difficult to have a
partition between genres. I think
that’s true in all music today.
You really have to put your
mind into it, like “Okay, it’s
straight-ahead and I’m going to
do it in the style from 1960 to
1965 Miles Davis.” It’s difficult.
I think those days are over. One
of the things I love about young
players right now is that it’s all
there. You even hear hip-hop
influences in their stuff. It’s cool.
One of the guests on Forever
is Chaka Khan. A lot of
people think of her as a funk
singer because of her ground-breaking work with Rufus in
the ’70s, but on this album
she sounds like a seasoned
jazz singer—she does some
sweet scat singing.
Chaka has always been a big,
big, big jazz fan. She’s a serious
musician, and whenever we call
her to sing, she loves to do it.
But you have to remember that
in the ’70s, she and Rufus had
hits and managers that were
kind of controlling. That’s all
they wanted you to see. The
perception of an artist from an
audience’s point of view is completely different from what the
guys and girls are really like. I
know country artists that, if you
go to their house, they’ve got
Miles Davis and Coltrane on.
Stanley Clarke plays his Lemur Music-made upright through a Ampeg SVT-2PRO head and an Ampeg cab at
De Oosterpoort in Groningen, Netherlands, on November 13, 2009. Photo by Klaas Guchelaar
Bill Connors also makes a
At the end of the last RTF tour,
the band and Al Di Meola
decided to go separate ways. We
were wondering what we should
do for the guitar scene, and
Chick came up with the idea to
call Billy. I didn’t even know if
he was still playing. We called
him up and he says, “Yeah, I’m
still playing.” So he came in and
we messed around. He rehearsed
a bit with us and took some
music home. He came back
again and hung out. And so he
played with us at the Hollywood
Bowl. The thing I like about
Billy is that he’s always a warm
player—he’s a melodic player.
And he still has that.
smiling, and it’ll throw everybody back into playing games—
it’s great. My logic tells me
that maybe it would be boring
because we’re both predictable—
I know what he’s going to do
and he knows what I’m going
to do—but I’m pretty sure what
we’re doing sounds great.
You’ve been playing with Lenny
White since you were teenagers.
How would you describe the
way you interact musically?
We’re both predictable to each
other. That can be a good thing,
but it can also be a bad thing.
So we have to work on trying to
surprise each other and amp the
game up. We’ve been together
40 years now. You know, you
have this musical mind and two
or three people can be the owners of that mind. And that’s a
great thing. But what makes it
even better is when you challenge it—when you go against
that mind. Everyone will start
Your 2008 album, Thunder,
with Marcus Miller and Victor
Wooten is quite a contrast to
what you’re doing now. What