Classics: Stanley Clarke – Heaven Sent You (Epic)
‘Heaven Sent You’ is just how I felt when I discovered this smoothie back in 1984. Back to this vibrant episode from Stanley Clarke‘s ‘Time Exposure’ album, I tend to see it as an appetizer. And most definitely a glimpse pretty much forewarning as to where Howard Hewett would go as a solo artist 2 years after. With emotion taking the centerstage in an unequalled way.
‘Heaven Sent You’ which Howard co-wrote with keyboardist Denzil A Miller, Jr. (himself responsible for Twennynine with Lenny White‘s ‘Fancy Dancer’) just says it all. From its lyrical content to its overwhelming interpretation. Not to mention its arrangements, in some atmospheric lascivious Jazz/Funk mood.
Stanley Clarke fully justifying once again his reputation as one of the most influential double bass and electric bass players…
– If ever listening to her mom who was a top opera and church singer, Philadelphia, PA-born Stanley Clarke would have become a violinist. He started studying this instrument for some time until the moment he felt it looked ridiculous on him. He incidentally switched to the bass as a schoolboy. Because of arriving late on the day instruments were distributed to students… With the acoustic bass being of the few remaining selections!
With an inclination to Jazz improvisations, Stanley Clarke went to study at the Philadelphia Music Academy. He relocated to New York in 1970. There, he found work as a session player with luminaries such as Stan Getz and Gato Barbieri. Not to mention Art Blakey, Deodato and Quincy Jones among others.
The year after, he joined forces with Chick Corea to form Return To Forever. One of the core groups of the 70’s Jazz fusion movement, RTF would welcome artists such as Al Di Meola, Flora Purim and Airto Moreira. But also Jean-Luc Ponty, Lenny White or Earl Klug to name a few.
Stanley Clarke released his solo debut-album – the nicely titled ‘Children Of Forever’ – back in 1973. No surprisingly, it featured some of his RTF mates such as Chick Corea and Lenny White. He would nevertheless come to higher recognition starting from his signature with Epic. Be it under The Clarke/Duke Project guise along with George Duke (remember ‘Sweet Baby’ and ‘I Just Want To Love You’). But also on his own. Eventually collaborating twice with Howard Hewett on ‘Heaven Sent You’ (1984) then ‘Fantasy Love’ (1993). But also producing ‘In The Dark’ for Roy Ayers in 1984. And most of Howard Hewett‘s solo debut-album ‘I Commit To Love’ two years after.
– Hailing from Akron, OH, Howard Hewett started singing as a child, fronting his older sisters in The Hewett Singers who toured the Gospel circuit. As a teen, he sharpened his crooner skills in a Funk band by the likes of Lyfe. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1976. There, he met John and Alonzo Daniels, the owners of the Maverick’s Flat an historical club in the LA Crenshaw district. The threesome joined forces as Beverly Hills and toured throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Asia for all of 1978 and until the middle of 1979.
After returning, Hewett started recording with producer Jeffrey Bowen on a solo project for guitarist Eddie Hazel. He never managed to complete it though because of a call he received from Jeffrey Daniel. The latter, who was in the middle of a promotional tour with Shalamar, offering him to join them as a lead singer.
Three days after, he was in Paterson, NJ along with Daniel and Jody Watley. There, they rehearsed the lip synch and choreography to the current Shalamar single ‘Take That To The Bank’ which they performed as a part of a local dance show. Returning to Los Angeles doon after, they immediately started recording the ‘Big Fun’ album with producer Leon F. Sylvers III.
Their collaboration with the latter would be synonymous with an impressive string of classics. From ‘Right In The Socket’ to ‘The Second Time Around’. Then ‘Make That Move’ and the lascivious ‘This Is For The Lover In You’ in 1980. But also ‘A Night To Remember’, ‘Friends’, ‘There It Is’ and I Can Make You Feel Good’ in 1982. Not to mention the vibrant ‘Over And Over’ the year after, with Jody Watley soon after leavin’, in the footsteps of Jeffrey Daniel. Hewett would nevertheless contribute to another Shalamar album, ‘Heartbreak’, in 1984 before launching his solo career.
On the heels of the recording deal he signed with Elektra, he made his solo debut, ‘I Commit To Love’, in 1986. Among its highlights, its title cut, which Hewett co-wrote with Sylvers. And also ‘I’m For Real’ which he co-wrote and produced with Stanley Clarke. Not to mention ‘Stay’ and ‘Say Amen’ which made quite some noise in the Gospel circuit.
Hewett got to the #2 position in the R&B charts with the vibrant ‘Show Me’ from his 1990 self-titled album. And he would reach one of his absolute peaks 4 years later with the release of his ‘It’s Time’ album on UK label Expansion Records. An LP which includes an impressive series of masterpieces… From ‘Crystal Clear’ to ‘This Love Is Forever. But also the highly spiritual ‘Call His Name’.
Later on, in 2001, he released the all inspirational album ‘The Journey’, where he shows us that his faith can’t be separated from his heart and soul.
Other moments definitely worth the check include his collaborations with Stanley Clarke. From ‘Heaven Sent You’ back in 1984 to ‘Fantasy Love’ 9 years after. And he also collaborated with George Duke, Deniece Williams and Stacy Lattisaw among others. And how about his presence on Narada Michael Walden‘s 1995 ‘Sending Love To Everyone’ album? Therefore sharing the vocal duties with Claytoven Richardson and Skyler Jett on ‘My Desire Is You’…