Corea, Clarke & White — Forever

May 14, 2011

Of course, it happened. It was simply inevitable because legends don’t die.  The return of Return to Forever. Didn’t you just feel that would happen? How do you keep such stellar talent from again rising to meteoric heights? Here we are in 2011, pleasantly treated to the sophisticated, sometimes complex, always riveting, production of a group that held us captive with its every note back in the ‘70s with the likes of Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and much later (with the help of Al DiMeola), Romantic Warrior. The illustrious keyboardist/pianist Chick Corea, iconic bassist Stanley Clarke, and masterfully expressive drummer Lenny White (and special guest alumni silky guitarist Bill Connors and the effervescent Jean Luc Ponty – what kind of reunion would it be without these forces?)…together again on a spectacular 2-CD set simply called (what else?) Forever, due for release on June 7.

Including electric and acoustic selections, jazz standards and the formula that ignited the redefinition of jazz/rock fusion, this is a compilation surely worth the wait.

Disc One is a live best-of sampler of the 2009 “RTF – Unplugged” world tour, packed with such standards as “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Waltz for Debby,” and “Hackensack,” Corea classics “Bud Powell,” and “Windows,” Clarke’s new “La Cancion de Sofia,” and RTF pieces “Senor Mouse” and “No Mystery.”

“The sets we played ere basically jam sessions of the standards we knew from the songbooks of Monk, Bill Evans, Miles, and others,” says Corea, an NEA Jazz Master, 17-time GRAMMY winner and undisputed keyboard virtuoso. “Also included are some pieces from the Return to Forever songbook reworked in this acoustic setting.”

Disc Two is another story. Here, we catch more of that fusion fever, though the wonderful Chaka Khan still makes some grand contributions in the standards realm. Here, the smart guitar of Connors and the glow of Ponty’s violin make a grand entrance  on a one-time-only gig at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.  Several pieces from that notorious Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy album are presented here in magnificent fashion, striking that reminiscent chord (no pun intended) and re-lighting the torch of that unforgettable period of time.

Chaka Khan adds more heat it out with her impressive chops on the Corea original “High Wire – The Aerialist” and the  Gershwin classic “I Loves You Porgy.” The “Tell Me Something Good” girl tells us something quite noteworthy indeed: That standards and classics are but another accomplishment in her forte.

Let us not forget Ponty’s violin.  Ah, Ponty’s violin. Just witness “”Armando’s Rhumba” and “Renaissance” for great aural experiences.

On the subject of preps for the Hollywood gig, which were recorded at Mad Hatter Studios in Los Angeles, the iconic Clarke says, “There was real magic. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and we have a lot of history at Mad Hatter… We originally didn’t intend to put this material out, but it sounded so great that we wanted to share this with our fans.”  Wise decision!

All in all, the entire project was a very wise decision. Legends don’t die. They just live on Forever.  Corea, Clarke, and White as the reincarnated RTF and its latest offering are proof positive of that. – Ronald Jackson