IF "3," the new album by bassist Stanley Clarke and keyboardist George Duke, turns out to be a commercial charmer, outselling the duo's two previous efforts, there'll be a lot of folks ready to take bows.
How's this for a guest list: Jeffrey Osborne, Philip Bailey, Howard Hewitt, Gerald Alston, Kirk Whalum, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter.
Mentioning those names may be a bit misleading, though. Henderson and Shorter, for example, merely lock horns on Clarke's sultry pop ballad "Find Out Who You Are;" there are no jazz tunes to speak of here. Instead, the selections range from Duke's impressionistic piano and synclavier arrangement of "Quiet Time" -- about as New Age-ish a piece as anyone associated with soul music would want to record -- to the duo's boisterous update of the Parliament Funkadelic classic "Mothership Connection," featuring Bailey's smooth croon, Clarke's fat and slinky bass lines and drummer Dennis Chambers's compelling beat.
Osborne and Hewitt pop up on the similarly hitbound "Oh Oh," and Clarke's lush reverie "Right by My Side" is custom-tailored for Alston's sexy tenor. Yet all too often Clarke, Duke and Chambers sound as if they're slaves to tried and true funk, not the adventurous souls they can be.