It 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 easier.

“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 place.”

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.

Lopsy Lu-Silly 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 bass.

On Milano 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.

Classical Thump 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.

Marcus Miller 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.

Lil' Victa 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.

After the 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 personalities.







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