If you are an electric bass player, this album will keep you busy for a while, listening to Mr. Clarke's excellent work. His range of tone qualities and techniques are amply exhibited here. This is a showcase for Stanley Clarke's virtuosity, and really an encyclopedia of the state of electric bass technique at the end of the 20th century.
Five of the jazz bassist' solo albums in a slipcase. 'Stanley Clarke' released in 1974, 'Journey To Love' from 1975, 'School Days' from 1976, 'Modern Man' from 1978 & the 'Clarke/Duke Project' from 1981.
Any time the likes of Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and Jean-Luc Ponty are assembled, there is a good chance the results are going to be impressive. Clarke and DiMeola had played together in the legendary Return to Forever, producing some of the most intense playing in all of fusion; Jean-Luc Ponty had also made several excellent, very diverse recordings. The chops of these three musicians are pretty much unsurpassed in the industry, which in itself makes Rite of Strings worthy of a listen. The real treat, however, is in the song selections. Three of DiMeola's more recent compositions are here, including the uplifting "Chilean Pipe Song." On this song, Clarke and Ponty's dual-bow sound provides a nice backdrop to DiMeola's introduction before DiMeola and Ponty state the melody together. Ponty has always been one of the more interesting violinists, mostly because he experiments with the instrument's tonal possibilities. His plucking introduction to "Renassaince" and the strumming on "Change of Life" are evidence of this. Clarke's finest moment comes on his own beautiful "Topanga," on which his bow playing is enough to evoke tears. This is a classic recording that should not be missed; the integrity, musicianship, compositions, and improvisations are all first-rate.
Stanley Clarke stretches his muscles and comes up with a mostly impressive, polystylistic, star-studded double album (now on one CD) that gravitates ever closer to the R&B mainstream. Clarke's writing remains strong and his tastes remain unpredictable, veering into rock, electronic music, acoustic jazz, even reggae in tandem with British rocker Jeff Beck. Clarke's excursion into disco, "Just a Feeling," is surprisingly and infectiously successful, thanks to a good bridge and George Duke's galvanizingly funky work on the Yamaha electric grand piano (his finest moment with Clarke by far). The brief "Blues for Mingus," a wry salute from one master bassist to another (Mingus died about six months before this album's release), is a cool acoustic breather for piano trio, and the eloquent Stan Getz can be detected, though nearly buried under the garish vocals and rock-style mix, on "The Streets of Philadelphia."