The path not taken

Someone once wrote that the evolution of a person’s musical tastes was expected go something like this: You start out in pop, then mature and move on to rock, then further mature and move on to jazz, then further mature and wind up at classical.

Perhaps that was the record companies’ expectation.

Perhaps it was an expression of an older generation’s lingering hope that rock would go away.

Regardless, I bought into that notion of musical evolution in the late ’70s, when I flirted with jazz fusion, thinking it was the next thing I would be passionate about. Those were the days of free-form FM radio, so I was introduced to jazz fusion when our station in central Wisconsin occasionally mixed it with rock late at night.

Though our collection here at AM, Then FM is fairly eclectic, there’s not a lot of jazz in it. Though I do enjoy some jazz, I never fully made that leap from rock to jazz, and certainly not the leap from jazz to classical.

I’m not sure what that says about my maturity, but I can live with that.

Today’s cuts come from an album I played a lot back in the late ’70s, trying to seem more sophisticated than I possibly could have been.

Rock met funk met jazz on “School Days,” the 1976 album by bass guitarist Stanley Clarke, and that alone made it worthy of airplay. I’m not knowledgeable enough about jazz to describe it much further. Rock meets funk meets jazz will have to do.

The title cut features a memorable riff, one on par with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” in that the first three notes drive the whole thing. Raymond Gomez adds some furious lead guitar on the crunchier portions of a tune that goes from hard to soft and back.

Gerry Brown’s drums and Milton Holland’s percussion drive our other cut, “The Dancer,” They lay down a beat that’s been described as “tribal.” Clarke soars over the top of it with a solo on a piccolo bass guitar, as does Gomez on lead and rhythm guitars.


“School Days” and “The Dancer,” Stanley Clarke, from “School Days,” 1976. It appears to be out of print, but is available via download.



Filed under February 2008, Sounds

3 responses to “The path not taken

  1. I appreciate both your taste in music and your ability to articulate your personal relationship with the tunes you post. I have a close bond with “School Days”: I played drums in a band in high school that included it in our repertoire (along with “Lopsy Lu” from his first album, Weather Report’s arrangement of “Birdland” and Chick Corea’s “Return To Forever”). We did a pretty good job with “School Days”, mostly because our bassist was a exceptional player and could emulate Stanley to the last nuance. We also played “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” “My Sharona,” and “Mother Freedom” by Bread (which we introduced as a Hendrix for the obvious don’t-want-to-be-associated-with-playing-a-Bread-tune syndrome. As you can imagine, we attracted a unique brand of groupie.

  2. School Days was required listening for fusion back in the day and along with Weather Report, Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra, got regular spins in my bedroom, along with Miles’s On The Corner. In fact, they still get regular spins. Great post on a classic album.

  3. Nice blog you’ve got here, but I see no mention of Al Di Meola. He has to be one of the best jazz-fusion-guitarists/composers in the world.

    About 30 years ago, at age 19, Al played with Corea’s “Return to Forever,” along with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. And today, he’s still playing all over the world, and composing most of his own rocket-scientist material.

    After RTF broke up, Al recorded his album “Land of the Midnight Sun.” This is the first album of his I heard, and I recognized genius in his special brand of incredibly-fast, technically-accurate guitar playing.

    Today, Al Di Meola just gets better and better. He’s come into his own in spite of the 1970’s record companies trying to change his style. Well, Al is not an ass-kisser nor a conformist. He’s very well known in Europe and Aisa, but still dissed in this country by most radio stations.

    The good news is that after almost 30 years, “Return to Forever” is getting back together this summer (2008) for a tour of the U.S.–with the original four band members. This will be THE jazz special of the year.

    For more information, visit Al’s website: (Check out the forums, too, as Al often posts to his fans.) Or google Stanley Clarke’s or Chick Corea’s websites.

    Al Di Meola is one talented individual you really should get to know. Check him out on YouTube. There are lots of videos of him and his bands through the years.
    I can be reached through my webpage. Just click the Statue of Liberty image to send mail.

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