Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke (born June 30, 1951) is an American jazz-funk bassist from Philadelphia who played in the supergroup Return to Forever between 1972 and 1977.

He was born Stanley Marvin Clarke on June 30, 1951 in Philadelphia. His mother, a church choir singer, encouraged him to take up music. He started on accordion, then played violin. However, the instrument was an awkward fit for his long fingers and tall stature.

At age 13, Clarke spotted an unused standup bass in the corner of his school’s music room. He studied the instrument for five years at Philly’s Settlement Music School, playing mostly classical music. During the late 1960s, he duplicated his mastery on the electric bass guitar. After graduating from the Philadelphia Musical Academy, he moved to New York City in 1971.

Clarke made one of his earliest recorded appearances on the 1971 Milestone release In Pursuit of Blackness by Joe Henderson. In 1972, Clarke’s name appeared on more than a dozen albums, including titles by Norman Connors (Dance of Magic), Pharoah Sanders (Live at the East, Black Unity), Luis Gasca (For Those Who Chant), Leon Thomas (Blues and the Soulful Truth), Bill Evans / George Russell Orchestra (Living Time), and Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (Child’s Dance). For the Red Lion Production series on Mainstream Records, he played on albums by Frank Foster, Pete Yellin, Buddy Terry, and Paul Jeffrey.

In February 1972, keyboardist Chick Corea summoned Clarke for a two-day session with reedist Joe Farrell and the Brazilian husband/wife team of percussionist Airto Moreira and vocalist Flora Purim. The following month, Moreira cut his third solo album, Free (CTI, October 1972), with backing from the other four, plus numerous session players.

Corea’s February sessions came out that September as Return to Forever, produced by Manfred Eicher and released on ECM. Now operating as a proper five-piece under the album’s name, they recorded a followup that October. The resulting Light as a Feather appeared in January 1973 on Polydor. Between its sessions and release-date, Clarke cut his first solo album.


  • Children of Forever (1973 • Stan Clarke)
  • Stanley Clarke (1974)
  • Journey to Love (1975)
  • School Days (1976)
  • Modern Man (1978)
  • I Wanna Play for You (1979)
  • Rocks, Pebbles and Sand (1980)
  • Let Me Know You (1982)
  • The Griffith Park Collection (1982 • Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard & Lenny White)
  • Time Exposure (1984)
  • Find Out! (1985)
  • Hideaway (1986)
  • Shieldstone (1987 • Stanley Clarke & Bill Shields)
  • If This Bass Could Only Talk (1988)


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