The first time legendary jazz and fusion bassist and composer Stanley Clarke went on tour, he was 17. Stan Getz, Art Blakey and Dexter Gordon all took him under their wings in those early years.
At 64, the Grammy winner’s given young musical prodigies a similar shot playing in the Stanley Clarke Band, which makes a rare stop in Charlotte at Knight Theater Saturday.
Drummer Mike Mitchell is 20; Beka Gochiashvili, a 19-year-old pianist from the Republic of Georgia, began performing with Clarke at 16. They follow a long-held jazz tradition.
“The drummer started with me when he got out of high school and I’ve known Beka since he was 11. Now his mother finally lets him come out on the road on his own. The first year he played with me, he had a guardian,” Clarke says, laughing.
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“They didn’t give me a guardian,” he says of Getz, Gordon, and Blakey. “I played with a lot of the old guard in jazz when I was 17 or 18. Those guys really took care of me. They never pushed drugs on me, or alcohol or crazy women. I was just a serious young guy. They respected that and let me do that. Particularly Stan Getz was very nice to me. Stan had a completely different life. It was like I was his son. He didn’t poison me.”
Goschiashvili won’t be on Clarke’s current shows. Mahesh Balasooriya, who played with Natalie Cole, will fill in on piano.
Clarke, who released the upbeat, eclectic “Up!” in 2014 and a trio album called “DStringz” with French violinist Jean Luc Ponty and guitarist Bireli Lagrenethe in late 2015, will begin recording his next album with the young prodigies in March.
“I found a studio in Brussels. It’s a little bit different. I’ve encouraged the guys in my band to form their own little band. It’ll be the Stanley Clarke Band featuring these guys, kind of like Return to Forever,” says Clarke of his groundbreaking funk and jazz fusion collaboration with Chick Corea.
Clarke, who hasn’t played Charlotte in years, says he’ll hit on material covering his entire solo career. He’s also composed scores from everything from “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” to “Boyz N’ the Hood,” “Higher Learning,” and the “Barbershop” movies. He’s currently working on the third.
“If the crowd begs for (1976’s) ‘School Days,’ I’ll play it,” he jokes, adding that he doesn’t mind digging into his more popular songs. “I used to. I use to hate it. I don’t anymore. I understand songs play a real unique part in a person’s life. Sometimes people associate certain music with certain things. They got married to some song I wrote. I feel obligated.”
An Evening With Stanley Clarke
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.
Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.