Renowned bassist Stanley Clarke almost has more work than he can handle.
Sunday the Philadelphia native finished a duo gig with the idiosyncratic pianist Hiromi at the Blue Note in New York. This summer he's revived the Clarke/Duke Project, known for the 1981 major pop hit "Sweet Baby," with keyboardist George Duke. For the past four years he's been touring with the fourth incarnation of Return to Forever, the pioneering jazz/rock/fusion band that jump started his career in the first place. In addition, "I finished playing some stuff with [RTF pianist] Chick Corea and [drummer] Jack DeJohnette."
And on Saturday, he brings a trio to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild to kick off its 2012-13 season. He refers to the tour of this configuration as a "skirmish," since he'll be on the road for only about two weeks. As for the material, "Not strictly, but the majority [will be] acoustic," he says.
But don't look for standards, however -- the band will deliver Mr. Clarke's own music and also some from RTF. "The fans that come that know what I do, they know the music" that he popularized, he says.
Part of the attraction will be his bandmates. One is Pianist Beka Gochiashvili, a 16-year-old native of the Republic of Georgia -- "Condoleeza Rice got him out of the country before a major attack," Mr. Clarke says -- who now studies classical piano at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
"Chick Corea told me about him, and [RTF drummer] Lenny White played with him at a festival," Mr. Clarke says. "He played with me in New York a couple of months ago." Gochiashvili held a party on Sunday for the release of a new CD, on Mr. Clarke's Roxboro Entertainment Group.
Also on board is Ronald Bruner Jr., whom Mr. Clarke says has garnered a reputation among other drummers as a musical force, but is not yet well-known with the public.
That said, Mr. Clarke believes that his longevity as a recording artist has kept him busy and that younger artists -- "because there are so many of them" -- are having trouble. "We have built-in PR," Mr. Clarke says.
As for future major projects, such as another RTF tour, those may be a while, if ever.
"The music part is OK; it's just putting it together -- that gets old," Mr. Clarke says. Because of the expense of road crew and promotion, "You have to go out for three or four months to justify that." Besides, with Mr. Corea now 71 and Mr. Clarke 61, "[We] just physically can't do it."
As for his next project, "I'm not even sure what I'm doing after that," Mr. Clarke says. "I have to constantly look at the calendar."
Rick Nowlin: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871. First Published September 27, 2012 4:00 AM