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Bass legend Stanley Clarke returns to Mondavi — this time, with his trio

Stanley Clarke and his trio will rock the Mondavi Center on Wednesday, Oct. 10. Jennifer McCormick/Courtesy photo

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From page A9 | October 04, 2012 |

In September of last year, legendary bass player Stanley Clarke visited the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall as part of the Return to Forever reunion tour. Clarke was a charter member of that influential jazz/rock fusion group, still fondly recalled for albums like “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy” (1973) and “Romantic Warrior” (1976).

At that concert, Clarke contributed what many in the audience felt was the highlight of the evening: a long, sizzling bass solo during his anthemic number “School Days,” which comes from one of Clarke’s solo albums from the ’70s. The audience cheered with approval.

The enthusiasm of that audience was not lost on the Mondavi Center’s management, which decided to bring Clarke back this fall. He appears Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Jackson Hall — this time with his trio, which includes veteran drummer Lenny White, a longtime friend of Clarke’s, another early member of Return to Forever, who also played in last fall’s reunion tour.

“Me and Lenny have been together for 40-something years,” Clarke said. “We share a musical language. When I play with Lenny, our thing is so locked in, it’s amazing.”

Also in the trio is pianist Ruslan Sirota, who has been playing with Clarke for about six years, and appeared on the 2010 album “The Stanley Clarke Band,” which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Sirota was born in 1980 in Uman, Ukraine, one of Davis’ sister cities.

“I think Ruslan still has relatives there,” Clarke said. “He went with me the last time I played in Ukraine. We played a big outdoor show, and people came out. People loved it.”

Clarke’s touring schedule takes him all over the world — Russia, Japan, Korea, you name it.

“Jazz is everywhere,” he said. “Around the world, it is recognized as an art form that came from America. And in may ways it is praised more (elsewhere) than here.”

Clarke said he’s glad to be playing again at Mondavi.

“I like the hall. And I remember that last year, the audience was very excited,” he recalled. “I could tell they knew their music.”

Clarke added that he and White have “a really cool duet record, where the two of us play all the instruments … that will be coming out next year. And I’m going to do a new record with Ruslan — he already has a solo album out with my company.” That would be 2011’s self-titled “Ruslan,” which features Clarke as a guest.

For Wednesday’s show at Mondavi “The three of us — myself, Lenny, Ruslan — are going to be playing some Return to Forever material, and some music from my solo albums. And we’ll probably throw in a few traditional jazz things. I’m sure I’ll take an acoustic bass solo. It’s going to be nice.”

Tickets the 8 p.m. concert are $25-$49 general, $12.50-$24.50 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787. There will be a pre-performance talk at 7 p.m., presented by Cory Combs, director of outreach, music and enrichment at The Nueva School, a Bay Area private school with a robust music program.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055. 

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