Stanley Clarke has long been considered a musical genius and his new CD The Toys Of Men only serves to enhance that notion. The composer and musician extraordinaire who is considered to be one of the innovators of jazz fusion and invented the piccolo and tenor bass instruments, opens the 13 track album The Toys Of Men with the title track, a composition consisting of six movements. Thematically "The Toys Of Men" poses hard questions concerning what happens if someone gives the order to launch nuclear missiles. Clarke’s voice introduces the first movement "Draconian" with a countdown to launch. Just as another Clarke (author Arthur C.) did more than three decades ago with his book and screenplay 2001 A Space Odyssey, from which sprang the Stanley Kubrick film of the same name, Stanley Clarke leaves us in wonderment and with unanswered questions (Wow, that’s a whole lot of Stanley’s and a lot of creative genius).
What unfolds in the six movements comprising "The Toys Of Men" is truly spectacular and breathtaking. During the first movement "Fear," the charts and the talented musicians take us through a harrowing adventure. Pandemonium breaks out in the third movement "Chaos," signified by Mads Tolling’s frenzied violin notes. The fourth track "Cosmic Intervention" is followed by the beautiful and ethereal vocalese of Esperanza Spalding, who offers hope in "The Opening Of The Gates." "The Toys Of Men" ends with "God Light," a movement in which Clarke’s electric bass fuses with Ruslan Sirota’s keyboarding to create a sense of awe.
If you are not into exploring musical themes as deep as those presented in the opening track, fear not for the album The Toys Of Men is an eclectic presentation of images and musical styles, including the R&B overtures of "All Over Again," which once again features the vocals of Esperanza Spalding, this time delivering smooth soulful lyrics. If you enjoy Anita Baker, you are going to love this lady. Spalding began playing the bass professionally when she was only fifteen years old. However, with vocal performances such as she serves up this original composition, which she co-authored with Stanley Clarke, the Berklee College of Music alumni may find just as many people clamoring to hear her sing as play. Oh, we almost forgot (smile) Spalding is accompanied by the incomparable Clarke as he plays acoustic bass guitar. Sirota on keys and Ronald Bruner Jr. also provide a very smooth, laid-back accompaniment.
"Hmm, Hmm" is 1:53 of Clarke soloing on his acoustic double bass. It is an easygoing bridge to the harder bop/fusion sounds of "Bad Asses," which highlights the drumming of Bruner Jr. The ultra modern jazz foray that is "Game" was recorded at The Boat Studio and Topanga Studios, both in California. The creativity of Clarke and engineer Ed Thacker prompts the question, why haven’t we heard more of this type of jazz? The answer is simple, there is only one Stanley Clarke. During this funky tune, it seems like Clarke’s bass takes on an almost human like voice.
The lamenting "La Cancion De Sofia" may be the most beautiful song from The Toys For Men. Any one of Clarke on acoustic bass, Sirota on acoustic piano, Tolling on violin and Phil Davis on keys makes this song worth listening to. Not to diminish the efforts of the other musicians who play on "La Cancion De Sofia," but the aforementioned instrumentalists play with passion and stir your heart.Stanley Clarke’s The Toys of Men consists of 58:14 of delectable tunes. Each song comes with its own story, some sad, some ominous, some joyful, but all are enjoyable.