School Days, Then And Now

Stanley Clarke's "School Days" may be a jazz fusion classic from the mid-1970s, but if you go hear him live in concert today, be prepared to hear it via modern live sound gear overseen by his FOH engineer of 14 years, Travis Rogers.
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September means it’s back-to-school time for millions of kids across the U.S., including the one in my house. We try to walk the half-mile to school as often as we can—it means we get some awesome Dad/Daughter time, but I also get a 10-minute meander back home with absolutely nothing demanding my attention. Free associating on the way back today, perhaps it was only fitting that Stanley Clarke’s jazz fusion classic, “School Days,” popped into my head.

Released in June, 1976, the track—and heck, the same-titled album it’s from—hold up today as great fun, and a cool mix of rock, pop and jazz. Over the ensuing decades, the song has become a ‘must-play’ for the four-time Grammy-winning bassist whenever he's in concert. But while the tune may provide a look back, Clarke’s concerts today are a forward-thinking endeavor on the live-sound side.

Engineer Travis Rogers, on tour with Stanley Clarke and a Yamaha CL5 for FOH

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Looking into it, it turns out his FOH engineer of the last 14 years, Travis Rogers (Lady Gaga, Brandy, Victor Wooten and many others) recently chatted with Yamaha Pro Audio about using a Yamaha CL5 digital console for the bassist’s tours, including his current run through South America. Rogers first used the desk at the Tokyo Blue Note in Japan in 2013. “What I like most about the CL5 are the mic pre-amps,” Rogers told Yamaha, “is that they have a warm presence to them that remind me of analog pre-amps. The on-board premium effects are awesome, and add a crisp new sound to the console. Effects I use are the U76, Portico5033, Opt-2A and the Buss Comp 369 plug-ins that add warmth and color to the mix.”

While they didn’t have the benefits of modern digital consoles at the time, here’s a live take on the track from 1981, recorded in England with the late keyboard maestro George Duke adding his own tasty polish to it.