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4 Classic Stanley Clarke RTF Bass Lines


Welcome to the final lesson for 2015! This month I want to highlight one of my all-time favorite bass players - Stanley Clarke. Stanley’s work and contribution to bass and music over the past 40 plus years is vast and, for this lesson, I’ve selected four funk lines from Stanley’s 1970’s tenure with the band Return To Forever.

Return To Forever’s classic lineup consisted of Chick Corea (keys), Stanley Clarke (bass), Al DiMeola (guitar), and Lenny White (drums). They were the quintessential jazz/rock/funk fusion band of the 1970’s so, if you’re unfamiliar with their work, do yourself a favor and check them out! I recommend starting with the album Romantic Warrior.

The first example comes from the Stanley Clarke composition Vulcan Worlds from the album Where Have I Known You Before. Bars 1–2 have an F7 flavor while bars 3-4 contain an Eb7 tonality with approach notes a half step below the chord tones.

Ex. 1


Example 2 kicks off the Al Dimeola tune Flight of the Newborn from the album No Mystery. This Stanley Clarke - Lenny White groove is pure funk goodness!

Ex. 2


RTF’s 1976 label change from Polydor to Columbia yielded their finest work, titled Romantic Warrior. The playing and production of this record is flawless. It is arguably the finest offering from the 70’s fusion era and one of the titles on my personal desert island disc list!

The second track on Romantic Warrior is Lenny White’s Sorceress. Sorceress contains two funky bass line hooks shown here as Examples 3 and 4. Check out the double stop slides in bars two and four – so funky!

Ex. 3


Example 4 occurs later in the tune. It’s a great application of fourth intervals in a bass line going from Bb to Eb to Ab to Db around a Bb minor tonality.

I incorporated this line into an arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints that my band plays live. (We also recorded this tune and I hope to release it in the near future)

Ex. 4

Here’s a video demonstration for you.

Have fun checking out the Return to Forever catalog. It’s brilliant stuff!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you soon!


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