Pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White have teamed up once again to revisit their common roots in the seminal fusion band Return to Forever. On June 7, 2011, Concord Jazz released Forever, a two-CD set of 18 tunes that include updated RTF classics as well as jazz trio standards. In support of the release, a tour is planned for next summer.
This very attractive five-CD set does an excellent job of summing up the rather productive career of pianist-keyboardist Chick Corea. The first two discs have highlights from the 1964-1982 period including a few sideman appearances, a previously unissued version of "Windows" played with Stan Getz, the original version of "Spain," four pieces from the Return to Forever days, and numbers from his freelance projects of the late '70s (highlighted by the exciting "Central Park"). The third disc concentrates on Corea's GRP projects (1986-1994), particularly his Elektric and Akoustic Bands (two selections were previously unissued), while the fourth CD is quite a grab-bag that includes collaborations with Herbie Hancock (a version of "Liza" that progresses from stride to free), Gayle Moran, John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia, Gary Burton, Bobby McFerrin, and Miles Davis (a new duet version of "I Fall in Love So Easily" from 1969).
Chick Corea was involved in a wide variety of projects during the early 1980s, some acoustic, others electric, and everything from solos and duets to orchestral projects. Touchstone really displays quite a bit of diversity with features for flamenco guitarist Paco DeLucia, a one-song ("Compadres") reunion of Return to Forever (with guitarist Al DiMeola, bassist Stanley Clarke, and drummer Lenny White), a spot for alto-great Lee Konitz ("Duende"), and a conventional sextet outing on "Dance of Chance." A bit uneven but with its interesting moments, Touchstone is worth checking out.
Musicmagic is Return to Forever's seventh and final studio album and one of the best jazz recordings released in the fusion genre. The album contains the final line-up of the band with only founders Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke returning from the previous recordings. This 1977 release was the first Return to Forever album in five years to contain vocals, performed here by Corea's future wife Gayle Moran and the surprisingly enjoyable Stanley Clarke. This album also marked the return of original member Joe Farrell on saxophone and flute, along with several new members making up a killer five-piece horn section…
With one of the most successful tours of 2008 behind it—and the two-CD set Returns (Eagle Records, 2009) released to document the event—the reunion of fusion powerhouse Return to Forever—keyboardist Chick Corea, guitarist Al Di Meola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White—appeared to be over. No surprise, however, that the group's triumphant performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was also recorded, and now sees release a year after the tour began. Impeccably recorded with a multi-camera crew, and featuring a number of audio options, it's the perfect document of a tour that brought unexpected mass popularity back to fusion.
The bass has seen its share of extraordinary innovators in the hundred-plus years of jazz history. Stanley Clarke, much like such hallowed figures as Jimmy Blanton, Charles Mingus and Scott LaFaro, was a game changer on his instrument. Unlike those who came before him though, Clarke helped alter the nature of both the acoustic and electric configurations of the bass. His groundbreaking work of the 1970s has been so integrated into the very fabric of modern jazz bass playing that a return visit to his own brilliant recordings can be nothing less than a revelatory listening experience.