Cheltenham 2023

Capturing the artistry and energy of Stanley Clarke (Cheltenham Jazz Fest 2023)

Stanley Clarke: Photos copyright John Watson/

John Watson writes: The bass artistry of Stanley Clarke inspired me to take these photographs at his band’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2023 concert.

Stanley Clarke: Photos copyright John Watson/

I have tried to capture the joy and amazing energy of this great musician – he is in his early 70s, but the
intensity of his playing and his musical focus remain undiminished.

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“His astonishing, hammering right thumb. Stanley Clarke: Photos copyright John Watson/

I remember first encountering his playing on record with saxophonist Joe Henderson, and first saw Stanley live in concert with the original line-up of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever at Ronnie Scott’s. Then – Clarke having switched mainly from double bass to his famous Alembic bass guitar – I caught him with a later Return To Forever line-up at Birmingham University. More jazz fusion concerts followed, with keyboard player George Duke and then his own bands, featuring his hit tune “Schooldays” as a highlight, that astonishing right thumb hammering out the pulse so brilliantly.

Stanley Clarke: Photos copyright John Watson/

I hope these photographs, taken at Cheltenham Town Hall, catch Stanley Clarke’s sheer exuberance, and, in this last one, perhaps also a feel for of the inspiration he gives to the band(*) around him.

Pianist Beka Gochiashvili, saxophonist Emilio Modeste, guitarist Colin Cook, drummer Jeremiah Collier.

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