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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Showing posts with label Stanley Clarke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stanley Clarke. Show all posts

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Instrumental - Stanley Clarke


Exploding into the jazz world in 1971, Stanley was a lanky teenager from the Philadelphia Academy of Music. He arrived in New York City and immediately landed jobs with famous bandleaders such as: Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, and a budding young pianist composer named Chick Corea.

All of these musicians recognized immediately the ferocious dexterity and complete musicality the young Clarke possessed on the acoustic bass. Not only was he expert at crafting bass lines and functioning as a timekeeper in the bass’ traditional role, Stanley also possessed a sense of lyricism and melody gained from his bass heroes Charles Mingus, Scott LaFaro, and others, including non-bass players like John Coltrane. Clarke recognized the opportunity to propel the bass into a viable melodic soloist role and was uniquely qualified to do just that.

The opportunity to state melody and to propel the bass to the front of the concert stage came to fruition when Clarke and Corea formed the seminal electric jazz/fusion band Return to Forever. RTF was a showcase for each of the quartet’s strong musical personalities, composing prowess, and instrumental voices. Clarke surmised, “we really didn’t realize how much of an impact we were having on people at the time. We were touring so much then, we would just make a record and go back on the road.” The band recorded eight albums, two of which were certified gold (the wildly successful Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and the classic Romantic Warrior), won a Grammy award (No Mystery) and received numerous nominations while touring incessantly. And this was a jazz band!

Then Stanley, his now famous Alembic bass in hand, fired the shot heard ‘round the world’. He single-handedly started the 1970s “bass revolution,” paving the way for all bassist/soloist/bandleaders to follow. In 1974 he released his eponymous Stanley Clarke album, which featured a hit 45rpm “single” (we’re still talking about jazz here,) titled “Lopsy Lu.” In 1976 Stanley released School Days, of which the title track is now a bona fide bass anthem.

He acknowledges, quite unboastfully: “Anyone who seriously wants to learn to play the bass has to buy that record and learn to play that song.” Aspiring bassists must also master the percussive slap funk technique that Stanley pioneered as well. Stanley saw Larry Graham’s technique (Sly and the Family Stone) and seized upon the idea. He built his facility to a frightening speed, and then adapted it to complex jazz harmonies. Says Stanley, “Larry started it, but he had only one lick. I saw him do it, and I took it from there.” Stanley was the first musician to pop over chord changes. “A lot of guys could jam all day in E, but couldn’t play it over changes.”

Stanley Clarke became the first bassist in history to headline tours, selling out shows worldwide, and have his albums certified gold. The word “legend” was used to describe Stanley by the time he was 25 years old. In 1997 Epic/Sony released: By this tender young age, Stanley was already a celebrated pioneer in fusion jazz music. He was also the first bassist in history to double on acoustic and electric bass with equal virtuosity, power, and fire. He had also invented two new instruments: the piccolo bass and the tenor bass. The piccolo bass, built to his specifications by New York luthier Carl Thompson, is tuned one octave higher than the traditional electric bass guitar. The tenor bass is a standard Alembic bass tuned up one fourth higher than standard. With both of these instruments, Stanley’s melodic range is extended for playing in higher registers as he sees orchestrationally fit.

Alembic honored Stanley by offering a signature model Stanley Clarke bass, the first time in the company’s history of making only custom built instruments to do so. Whatever the instrument: acoustic bass viol, electric bass guitar, tenor bass, piccolo bass, acoustic bass guitar, electric upright, or any of the hundreds of axes in his arsenal, Stanley’s musicality and command of these instruments clearly define him as the greatest living bass virtuoso in the world, second to none, hands down, end of discussion.

Now king of the acoustic and electric jazz worlds, in 1981 Stanley teamed with George Duke to form the Clarke/Duke Project. Together they scored a top-twenty pop hit with “Sweet Baby,” recorded three albums and still tour to this day. Stanley’s involvement in additional projects as leader or active member include: Jeff Beck (tour of Japan and Europe, 1978-1979), Ronnie Wood's & Keith Richards’ New Barbarians (North American tour, 1979), Animal Logic (with Stewart Copeland, two albums and tours, 1989), The "Superband”(with Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, Najee, and Deron Johnson, 1993-94), The Rite of Strings (with Jean Luc Ponty and Al Dimeola, 1995), Vertu’ (with Lenny White, 1999). A much more detailed listing of Stanley Clarke’s bands can be found in Discography. Clarke has won literally every major award available to a bass player: Grammys, Emmys, every readers’ poll out there, all the critics’ polls, gold and platinum records, walks of fame- you name it. He was Rolling Stone’s very first Jazzman of the Year, and bassist winner of Playboy’s Music Award for ten straight years.

Ever seeking new challenges, in 1985 Stanley turned his boundless creative energy to film and television scoring. Starting on the small screen with an Emmy nominated score for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, he progressed onto the silver screen as composer, orchestrator, conductor and performer of scores for such blockbuster films as: Boys N the Hood, What’s Love Got to Do With It (the Tina Turner Story), Passenger 57, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Panther, The Five Heartbeats, Little Big League, and Romeo Must Die. He has even scored a Michael Jackson video release directed by Jon Singleton entitled Remember the Time. Currently his scoring may be heard on the number one rated show for the Showtime Network: Soul Food. Stanley has become one of the elite in-demand composers in Hollywood.

Stanley says that: “film has given me the opportunity to compose large orchestral scores and to compose music not normally associated with myself. It’s given me the chance to conduct orchestras and arrange music for various types of ensembles. It’s been a diverse experience for me musically, made me a more complete musician, and utilized my skills completely.”

His artistry has spanned classical, jazz, R&B and pop idioms. He has already succeeded in a multitude of diverse careers, any one of which would be satisfactory to anyone else. Yet he still pushes on, as invigorated and as passionate about music as that teenage prodigy from Philadelphia with a dream.
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Who Was Charles LoBue


Charles LoBue was one of the fathers of the custom electric guitar business. Charles came to the industry after taking classes from Michael Gurian, first working in and around the guitar repair business in NYC in the mid 60's. Charles' interest in the business began by doing basic repairs on factory made guitars. These were primarily made by Gibson and Fender, the "Gold Standard" for electric guitars, as well as any guitar including acoustics which came through the door. As a professional player in the U.S. in the 60's, Gibson and Fender were the most likely choices if you wanted an electric guitar. It is well known that the Brits used European made guitars as well, primarily due to their accessibility. By the mid late 60's both companies had been sold to larger corporations which were not primarily in the guitar business. The basic perception even today is that the guitars made by these companies during this period were inferior in quality and also lacked many options. Jimi Hendrix was making all kinds of weird (wonderful) sounds and more adventurous players wanted alternatives. Charles was a guy in NYC who had a strong interest in guitars and experimentation. By luck or by design, Charles ended up in a circle of brilliant people such as "Dan Armstrong" and "Matt Umanov" (plexiglass guitar), Carl Thompson ( "CT Basses" ), Larry DiMarzio (DiMarzio Pickups), Steve Bleucher ( "DiMarzio Pickups"), Michael Gurian ("Gurian Guitars"), Sherwood Phifer ( "Phifer Designs" ), Ralph Novak ( "Novax Guitars"), "Bill Lawrence" (custom pickup inventor) among others, building custom designed electric guitars and basses. LoBue and Thompson started a repair shop in the village and quickly became known as the "go to" shop for anyone who wanted the best repairs and setup. After only about a year, LoBue and Thompson split, Thompson indicating that LoBue wanted to build guitars and he was happy with the repair business. (Thompson of course went on to make world renown basses for such players as "Les Claypool" and "Stanley Clarke").
LoBue attracted a small group of apprentices and began customizing and building standard guitars for sale, but also designed custom guitars for "Rick Derringer" (at the time with Johnny Winter), "Steve Khan" , "Paul Stanley", "Gene Simmons", "Steve Hunter" and "Alfonso Johnson" (then with Weather Report). The well recognized picture of Rick from Guitar Player magazine with his famous explorer was a LoBue Guitar. Derringer commissioned this and many other instruments initially to protect a split head explorer which had become too valuable to take on the road.

This is a short list of players who had guitars built by LoBue and his band of men. DiMarzio and Bleucher worked at Guitar Lab very early. DiMarzio was doing setups and fretwork at the shop and ventured to "Jimmy D'Aquisto's" shop learning from the master about the finer arts of fret dressing. DiMarzio had gone through an electronics course and found working with Charles was a good fit. Charles had the natural curiosity of what could be done and Larry had the practical skill. It wasn't long before DiMarzio wanted to work on the electrical components and LoBue gave him a box of "broken" pickups that they experimented with for new sounds. DiMarzio came up with some revolutionary ideas. Bill Lawrence told me that LoBue is responsible for the replacement pickup industry. Prior to this time, there weren't replacement pickups available. DiMarzio was starting to experiment in his basement and it wasn't long before he opened his own shop across town doing setups and selling pickups not only to LoBue, but other shops who were doing repairs. Woody Phifer was a college student and hobbyist wood carver who wandered into the shop by accident. What he saw excited him and he immediately asked if he could apprentice with LoBue. At the time the only builders were LoBue and college student (architecture/ sculptor) "Bob Sindorf" . Sindorf had experimented with building his own guitar in high school. These were of modeled after current styles, but he had the head start on the geometry.
Sindorf completed his work at Columbia and became a world renown sculptor prior to his passing a few years ago. Phifer brought to the shop the thought that different contours may work.
LoBue was already making custom shapes but this brought another dimension to the formula as Phifer started to learn LoBue's craft. After only a few years Phifer started his own shop and now builds custom guitars in upstate New York (Phifer Designs). Another significant builder who worked in the shop was student, Ralph Novak. Ralph chose to stay around for quite some time and eventually become LoBue's partner. An unfortunate tragedy was when LoBue Guitars (Guitar Lab) was broken in to and a number of celebrity guitars were lost. LoBue replaced the guitars from his own pocket but this put him into a substantial financial bind.

After years of fending off Alex Musical's offer to add custom guitars to his line of factory guitars LoBue finally caved and sold the business to Alex. LoBue signed a 1 year contract and at the end of the period, he and Novax moved to San Francisco... another music capital at the time. After only a few years, loneliness for NYC got to Charles and he returned. Novak became a partner at Subway Guitars in San Francisco and shortly thereafter patented fanned fret technology for guitars starting his own company, Novax Guitars in Eugene Oregon. In 1985 Charles died after a short illness.