Stanley Clarke Wows Music Lovers at Pittsburgh’s Annual International Jazz Festival

Stanley Clarke
By Anita Stewart, Rock At Night Pittsburgh
Location: Downtown Pittsburgh on Liberty Avenue, Sunday June 23, 2019
Busking on the street

It was a perfect summer night to see an outdoor concert, warm but not stifling and this part of downtown Pittsburgh was pleasant to walk in; shops all around, buskers on the corners and all kinds of people–old, young, dressed up and down and all waiting to see this world renowned bass player and his incredible band! This was definitely a family type event as there were lots of children and young people in the crowd. Some parts of the crowd were so dense that if you had passed out, you would still be standing upright! The pubs and cafes were open so people could escape the crowds for a few minutes and mingle inside, grab a beer and then walk out to hear the music. Diverse vendors also lined the sidewalks, so there was a little something for everyone. Many of the concert goers brought their own chairs and set them up in rows facing the stage since Liberty Avenue was entirely blocked off.

Busking on the street

From the website: “A signature program of August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF) is curated and directed by Janis Burley Wilson, the President & CEO of the AWAACC, who created and directed the jazz fest since its founding in 2011. The festival is a combination of free outdoor concerts and ticketed shows inside the August Wilson African American Cultural Center.” With major headliners this year like Patti Labelle, Charles Lloyd, War, Tamara Tunie and many more this is an event that is still kept mostly free and is planned for and anticipated all year.

Hailing from Philadelphia, Clarke has been playing music for over fifty years and started out on violin and then cello, both instruments he never felt comfortable playing because of his large fingers. An abandoned upright bass was propped in the corner of the band room and he started to play it, so that started it all–a creative love affair with Clarke finally finding the right instrument to express himself. He started to gain recognition in the jazz world around 1971. He is credited with forming one of the first “jazz fusion” projects with his friend and colleague, Chick Corea called “Return to Forever” and recorded eight studio albums under that name.
Pittsburgh Jazz Festival

Since then, Clarke has written music for films and television, won Grammys and other awards, produced music for other artists and has played with almost everyone in the jazz and rock world–so many that it would be impossible to list all his collaborations and projects here. His body of work is a lengthy one that you can check out HERE. Along with Niki West, Chris Squire, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Tina Weymouth, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, Jaco Pastorius and Larry Graham, Clarke is recognized as giving the bass as a prominent place in modern music by not just playing it as a background instrument or using it to keep time but bringing it to the forefront as a lead instrument while using melodic lines.

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke took the stage before dusk and played an amazing set to close out the festival on the last night. The current band lineup is: Beka Gochiashvili (Piano), Cameron Graves (Keys), Shariq Tucker (Drums), Salar Nader (Tabla) and Evan Garr (Violin). The band was electrifying, especially during the violin and tabla solos and Clarke gave every band member a chance to shine! The audience was wild and shouted for more!  He is touring now with many dates in the US and Europe and hitting many of the jazz festivals along the way. For upcoming tour info–CLICK HERE

Anita Stewart
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