Night School: An Evening with Stanley Clarke and Friends is a star-studded DVD released on Heads Up International through Clarke’s own Roxboro Entertainment Group on March 27, 2007. The 90-minute presentation chronicles the third annual Stanley Clarke Scholarship Concert, recorded at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA, in October 2002. With guest performances by Stevie Wonder, Wallace Roney, Bela Fleck, Sheila E., Stewart Copeland, Flea, Wayman Tisdale, Marcus Miller and more, Night School captures performances that range from straightahead jazz to full-tilt rock fusion to twenty-two-piece string arrangements – all on one stage, all in a single night!
“We had great chemistry at the scholarship concert in 2003,” says Clarke of the Night School DVD. “The thing I really liked about that concert – aside from raising the money for the scholarship – was that all these great people showed up, and just got up onstage and played with no real rehearsal to speak of. They just got up there, and this energy and groove just sort of happened.”
Among Clarke’s favorite moments in the concert – and the DVD – is a segment wherein he’s joined by electric banjoist Bela Fleck and violinist Karen Briggs in “Song To John,” a composition written by Clarke and dedicated to jazz pioneer John Coltrane. Immediately afterward, drummer Stewart Copeland (formerly of the Police) settles in behind the kit and takes the foursome through “The Lochs of Dread,” a song penned by Fleck during his tenure in the short-lived bluegrass combo Strength in Numbers.
Throughout the DVD, the musical numbers are intercut with commentary from Clarke on the merits of Musicians Institute and the value of education for young and aspiring musicians. Likewise, various other musicians from the concert lineup also weigh in with high praise for Clarke, his scholarship, his commitment to education in general and his contribution to the jazz tradition and the role of the bass within it.
The tone shifts to the orchestral when a full string section takes the stage to perform a series of compositions from Clarke’s vast catalog of film scores. The segment includes “Frequent Flyer” from Passenger 57; the theme from Boyz ‘N the Hood; and “Anna Mae,” from the 1993 Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It?
The energy level ratchets up several notches in a “The Big Jam,” featuring bassist Flea (from Red Hot Chili Peppers), Briggs, Copeland and drummer/percussionist Sheila E. Stevie Wonder follows with “Every Day I Have the Blues” and Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” two classics delivered with an ensemble that includes Clarke, Briggs, keyboardist Rodney Franklin (on “Blues”) and drummer Gerry Brown.
The finale is a monster jam that Clarke himself characterizes as “way off the hook.” The free-for-all features Clarke accompanied by an army of no less than 10 bass players – including Flea, Wayman Tisdale, Marcus Miller and a host of other axemen – each taking a turn riffing on an extended version of Clarke’s landmark hit “School Days.”