The Stanley Clarke Band in Vancouver
Stanley Clarke, along with band mates Ruslan, Ronald Bruner Jr., and featuring guest pianist Hiromi, delivered an energetic and virtuosic performance at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts in front of an adoring audience, who responded with multiple ovations throughout the night. Fans were treated to a main set that clocked in at over 2 hours, but felt much, much shorter. The encore extended the concert to almost 2 and a half hours.Clarke, a capital L legend who helped usher in the fusion genre with Return to Forever, a group he co-founded with Chick Corea back in the early 70s, displayed the many facets of his remarkable musicianship that have enabled to maintain and keep growing his fan base through the decades. The greats always make it look easy. Clarke made it look totally effortless, even while doing things that most players can’t even begin to imagine on the upright. Such is his mastery of music, his instrument and the material.Clarke has surrounded himself with some amazing young players. Ronald Bruner Jr. and Ruslan, both 27, have been with him for 5 years now. Each is a monster on his instrument; Bruner on the drums, and Ruslan on keyboards. Hiromi started working with Clarke over the past two years, has recorded two CDs with him, and at 26 is regarded as the rising start on jazz piano. All of these players showed again last night how they got the gig with Clarke.Bruner works the drum kit like it was his personal invention. His metal work, bass drum technique and snare chops , while impressive taken individually, melded together to create a groove that simply drove the tunes while incorporating a sensitivity and interplay with the other musicians that bordered on the unreal. His solos rocketed into another universe altogether.Ruslan’s contribution from his keyboards and synths, added depth and warmth through ensemble sections, but his fiery solo lines are where he shone brightest. The patches he chose, along with the lines he played, took you places in your heart and in your mind. His passion is undeniable.Hiromi, the young piano phenom, played in her inimitable way. Highly energetic, almost to the point of frenetic at times, she bobbed, weaved and pounced like a prize fighter. Not just a contender, though, but rather a world champion. Her technique is jaw dropping. Her dynamic range is stunning. Her ability to seamlessly merge or cross styles is staggering. Her solos inevitably ended with huge ovations from the Vancouver crowdMake no mistake, this is the Stanley Clarke Band. Through all the tunes Clarke was the cog in the middle of some very highly talented spokes. Like all the truly great band leaders, Clarke allows his players more than their moments in the spotlight. With his credentials he ensures that they will continually take their own playing to the next level. His smiles on the bandstand are genuine. This man loves what he does, and he is clearing loving the people he is doing it with these days.One of the best concerts I have seen in the past several years.