Album Title: Jazz in the Garden
Performers: Stanley Clarke (bass), Lenny White (drums), Hiromi Uehara (piano).
Label: Heads Up
Playing time: 61'15"
Recorded: Los Angeles- USA – December 2008

Never too late to release a first-ever acoustic trio recording as leader with old folk drummer Lenny White and the baby monster of jazz piano Hiromi Uehara, Stanley Clarke has been one of the most talented bass players in the jazz sphere for almost forty years. And even if its discography could be qualified as a musical roller coaster with ups and downs (the last downer in my opinion was Thunder with bassists Marcus Miller and Vic Wooten), it is always a thrilling proposition to discover a new Stanley Clarke outing. This one is a big "up".

The opening track "Paradigm Shift (Election Day 2008)" announces the overall premise - deep rhythmic and lyrical bass lines from the boss; punchy and solid drums from the old RTF partner; and Corea-like piano game from the young Japanese keyboardist. On "Sakura Sakura" and "Sicilian Blue", the pianist delivers beautiful but timid solos. It is a difficult exercise on a studio recording. Mostly artists need to keep in mind the overall coherence of each track clocking between three and five minutes. The heartbeat of Clarke's instrument definitely sets the rules. But the interaction between the three players and especially between the youngster andthe two long-time rhythm companions worked out fine. I read how this was due to some common experiences of fusion and electronically-tinged recordings but I am not one of those who credit this to Hiromi or her other band mates. Hiromi is capable of playing wonderful acoustic rhapsodic music and she refers all along these tracks to her most intimate references of the acoustic piano.

"Take the Coltrane" is truly made over by the rhythmic team in low gear, with Stanley Clarke completely dominating and assuming the role of saxophone and piano himself. After the delicate and melodic interludes of "Three wrong notes" and "Someday My Prince Will Come", Joe Henderson's "Isotope" is a typical hard-bop energetic syncopated trio romp and Hiromi delivers a bit more of her amazing dexterity and ambidextrous chops. The second part of the album gives more room for bass and keyboard to interact. The swinging duet on "Global Tweak" finds a logical suite with a very persuasive version of Miles Davis's "Solar" and the bouncing Hiromi composition "Brain Training".

The final track is a surprise and kind of new standard. The Red Hot Chili Peppers tune "Under the Bridge" is well served by the trio's fresh rhythmic inspiration and convincing improvisation. One source of resentment nevertheless resides in the fact that every number is really short and shortchanges the full dimension of what would have been the spun-out live performance equivalents. I definitely ask for the live performance album next. That should be terrific. Highly recommended...