was a natural process that bass giants Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller
and Victor Wooten united to the supergroup S.M.V., the initials of
these bass players. Each a powerful and high-acclaimed artist, they
dominate the bass music of their time. Furthermore they have all found
their home on the Heads Up label, which made the amalgamation a lot
“We wanted to make
a bass record with a sound that would be somewhat unexpected to the
listener,” says Clarke, the elder statesman of the three-man crew, all
of whom share songwriting credits on the recording. “The biggest
hurdle was to make a record with three basses – very low-end
instruments, by definition – that would still be as musical as
possible, and I think we achieved that.” The three bassists played
together for the first time in October 2006 at the Bass Player Live!
concert in New York City and they recognized that this sounded
unexpectedly well. Marcus Miller: "After we jammed at the award
ceremony, it was clear that it would be pretty easy to do musically.
Each one of us found a space to operate that didn’t compete with the
other. We fell into it pretty naturally. I saw Stanley at the airport
the next day and said, ‘You know we should do this soon, right?’ he
agreed. We knew Vic was down, because it was his idea in the first
The album was
produced by Marcus, Stanley and Victor. All bassists contributed own
compositions to Thunder. Guest musicians are among others
keyboardists Chick Corea and George Duke, trumpeter Michael “Patches”
Stewart and vocalist/beat boxer Butterscotch (aka Antoinette Clinton).
Maestros de las
Frecuencias Bajas (The masters of the low frequencies) was
composed by Stanley Clarke in a symphonic way. “This track is cool
because it starts out orchestrally and really takes its time building
the drama before the basses come in,” says Miller. “Stanley arranged
it so that Vic plays the melody line first, then Stanley comes in with
the same line in harmony, then I come in to add a second harmony line.
The horn section plays the same line completely harmonized. The
arrangement really takes you on a trip.” The tune reminds me of
Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Pictures Of An Exhibition. It's
always impressing, when a composer can rely on a classic background.
Stanley is experienced by writing several movie-scores in the past. I
recommend his album At the Movies (1995).
The low rumbling sound of Thunder perfectly describes what
happened in the studio. The explosive nuclear reaction of three bass
elements, melody, rhythm and sound combined to a roaring monster." The
tune has a contemporary sound to it, but you can really hear each
guy’s sound,” says Miller. “Butterscotch introduces each player, and
halfway through we all start slapping away together. This kind of
thing usually doesn’t work with three bass players, but it works here,
and it’s pretty funky.”
Hillbilles on a
Quiet Afternoon is Victor Wooten's homage to Stanley Clarke's “Quiet
Afternoon” (School Days, released in 1976). Starting from the original
melody the bass maestros find new ways of expression.
Mongoose Walk is featuring Chick Corea on piano. Although
sometimes on the path of melody the musicians burst out in free
interpretation and jazz improvisation. Chick for sure. Los Tres
Hermanos is a melodious island. A place for recreation and
contemplation. The captivating melody gives the musicians enough
melody for Spanish caprioles.
Putty is a sort of medley. Some Lopsy Lu from Stanley
Clarke's self-titled album (1974), some Silly Putty from
Stanley's album Journey To Love (1975) added with a bass-line
from School Boy Crush from The Average White Band's album
Person To Person (1976). The tune is peppered by George Duke's
Mini Moog. The funky sound of the '70's transferred to contemporary
the group demonstrates the individual concepts of bass interpretation.
Stanley Clarke performs acoustic bass with bow (Arco and Pizzicato),
Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten obligato bass guitars and Marcus
Miller fretless bass. The orchestral impression is supported by
Marcus' synth strings.
is a cover of Victor Wooten's album A Show Of Hands (1996).
Victor and Marcus showcase their rapidity and mastery of bass. Somehow
an Olympic competition.
wrote, arranged and performed Tutu for Miles Davis in 1985. By
the way Marcus composed most of Miles' music since 1980 starting with
The Man With The Horn. The rendition on this album is quicker
and groovier than the original but still extremely intensive.
Percussion gimmicks like cowbells and Butterscotch's vocals turn the
dark mood to a brighter level.
is Stanley's contribution to Victor's virtuosity. Starting with a
mellow intriguing melody the tune accelerates to an up-tempo piece in
the style of Credence Clearwater Revival. Did I say that Victor
sometimes plays his bass like a banjo? Greetings to the Flecktones.
Like a Pendulum
swings the following tune. In the liner notes is a hint: "No drum
machines were used anywhere on this recording." Indeed this is
impeccable vocal beat boxing by Butterscotch, the amazing talent best
known by the TV-show America's Got Talent.
interlude "Lemme Try Your Bass" follows Grits. Marcus Miller
wrote this tune in the spirit of blues. The final solo is performed by
Stanley Clarke. Marcus: "He sounds like an old blues guitarist".
Thunder is a
milestone in bass history. It's not an academic competition between
three bass heroes but an impressive reflection of three musical