Return To Forever LIVE (2008) Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola, Lenny White
● Tracklist: 00:00:00 – Intro 00:00:34 – Vulcan Worlds 00:13:40 – The Sorceress 00:24:45 – Space Circus Pt. 1 00:29:49 – Al’s solo 00:37:25 – Chick’s solo 00:46:10 – The Romantic Warrior / Stanley’s solo 01:05:13 – Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant
● Personnel (Return To Forever): Chick Corea – keyboard Stanley Clarke – bass Al Di Meola – guitar Lenny White – drums
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Return To Forever
Return to Forever was an American jazz fusion band that was founded by pianist Chick Corea in 1972. The band has had many members, with Corea’s only constant companion being bassist Stanley Clarke. Along with Weather Report, The Headhunters, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever is often cited as one of the core groups of the 1970s jazz-fusion movement. Various musicians, including Clarke, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, and Al Di Meola, came to prominence through their performances on the Return to Forever albums.
After playing on Miles Davis’ jazz-fusion albums In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970), Corea formed an avant-garde jazz band called Circle with Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton, and Barry Altschul. In 1972, after becoming a member of Scientology, Corea decided that he wanted to better communicate with an audience. This meant playing a more accessible style of music than avant-garde jazz.
Return to Forever first disbanded in 1977 after five years and seven studio albums. The band did various occasional reunions over the years (until Korea’s death in 2021), despite no new studio recordings since 1977.
First group (1972-1973)
The first edition of Return to Forever performed primarily Latin-oriented music. This initial band consisted of singer and percussionist Flora Purim, her husband Airto Moreira (both Brazilian) on drums and percussion, Korea’s musical co-worker Joe Farrell on saxophone and flute, and young Stanley Clarke on the bass.
Within this particular early line-up, Clarke played acoustic double bass in addition to electric bass. Fender Rhodes electric piano from Korea formed the basis of this group’s sound; he had yet to discover synthesizers, his signature sound, in the last years of the group. Clarke and Farrell were given ample solo space.
While Purim’s voice lent some commercial appeal to the music, many of her compositions were also instrumental and somewhat experimental in nature. The music was composed by Korea except the second album’s title track, which was written by Stanley Clarke. The lyrics were often written by Korea’s friend Neville Potter and frequently had a Scientology theme. Clarke himself became involved in Scientology through Korea, but eventually left the religion in the early 1980s.
Their first album, simply titled Return to Forever, was recorded for ECM Records in 1972, and was initially released only in Europe. This album featured the now famous Korean compositions ‘Crystal Silence’ and ‘La Fiesta’. Soon after, Corea, Airto, Clarke, and Tony Williams formed the band for Stan Getz’s Captain Marvel (1972) album, which included Corea’s compositions, including some from Return to Forever’s first and second albums. Their second album, Light as a Feather (1973), was released by Polydor and included the song ‘Spain’, which also became quite well known.
Era del jazz rock (1973-1976)
Following the second record, Farrell, Purim, and Moreira left the group to form their own bands, joined by guitarist Bill Connors, drummer Steve Gadd, and percussionist Mingo Lewis. However, Gadd was unwilling to tour with the band and risk his job as a requested session drummer. Lenny White (who had played with Corea in Miles Davis’s band) replaced Gadd and Lewis on drums and percussion, and the group’s third album, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), was re-recorded (the first recording, with Gadd on drums, it was never released and has since disappeared).
The nature of the group’s music had completely changed to jazz-rock, and had evolved in a similar vein to that played by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, and some progressive rock bands at the time. Their music was still relatively melodic, based on strong themes, but the jazz element was by this time almost completely absent, replaced by a more direct, rock-oriented approach.
Overdriven, distorted guitar had also become prominent in the band’s new sound, and Clarke had by this time switched almost entirely to electric bass. No replacement on vocals was hired, and all songs were now instrumentals. This change did not lead to a decline in the band’s commercial fortunes, however Return to Forever’s jazz rock albums found their way onto the US pop album charts.
In the September 1988 DownBeat magazine interview with Chick Corea by Josef Woodward, Josef says (page 19), ‘There is this general view…that…Miles [Davis] crystallized electric jazz fusion and that He sent his emissaries. ‘ Chick says, ‘No, that’s Disneyland. Miles is definitely a leader… But other things happened that I thought were equally important. What John McLaughlin did with the electric guitar put the world on their ears. No one ever’. I’ve heard electric guitar play like that before, and it certainly inspired me… John’s band, more than my experience with Miles, led me to want to turn up the volume and write music that was more dramatic and made your hair move. ‘
While his second jazz rock album Where Have I Known You Before (1974) was similar in style to its immediate predecessor, Corea now played synthesizers in addition to electric keyboards (including piano), and Clarke’s playing had evolved considerably, now using flange and fuzz tone effects, and with his signature style beginning to emerge.
After Bill Connors left the band to focus on his solo career, the group also hired new guitarists. Although Earl Klugh played guitar on some of the group’s live performances, he was soon replaced by then-19-year-old guitar prodigy Al Di Meola, who had also played on the album’s recording sessions.
Their next album, No Mystery (1975), was recorded with the same lineup as Where Have I Known You Before, but the style of music had become more varied. The first side of the record consisted mainly of jazz-funk, while the second side featured the Korean acoustic title track and a long composition with a strong Spanish influence. On this album and the next, each member of the group composed at least one of the tracks. No Mystery won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Group.
The last album by this longest-lasting ‘classical’ line-up of the group, who had by this time left Polydor for Columbia Records, was Romantic Warrior (1976), the best-selling of all Return to Forever efforts, which eventually reached gold disk status. Romantic Warrior continued his experiments in the realm of jazz-rock and related musical genres, and was praised by critics for both the technically demanding style of his compositions and his musicianship.
After the release of Romantic Warrior and the subsequent Return to Forever tour in support (as well as having been signed to a multi-million dollar contract with CBS), Corea surprised Clarke by deciding to change the group’s lineup and not include White or Di Meola.
Final Album (1977)
The final incarnation of Return to Forever featured Corea, Clarke and Joe Farrell, as well as a four-piece horn section and Corea’s wife Gayle Moran on vocals, but only recorded one studio album, Musicmagic (1977).
In 1978, after releasing a live album from the tour titled Return to Forever Live: The Complete Concert (a four-LP set, also released as a single LP and later as a double CD), Chick Corea officially disbanded the group.
In 1982, the Corea/Clarke/White/Di Meola lineup reunited to record an eleven-minute track, ‘Compadres’, which was issued on Corea’s 1982 album Touchstone. In 1983, the same Return to Forever lineup undertook a brief reunion tour of the United States and Japan, but did not record a new album.
The tour’s repertoire included new material from Korea, including a piece titled ‘Overture’ which was later recorded by the Chick Corea Elektric Band for the GRP multi-artist live double album Super Live in Concert (1992), and another entitled ‘The Ghost’ which Di Meola later recorded on his album Kiss My Ax (1991).
Twenty-six years later, Corea, Clarke, White, and Di Meola reunited for a second time for a US and European tour that began in the summer of 2008. A box set of digitally remixed and remastered tracks from the Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy albums, Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery and Romantic Warrior were released to coincide with the tour.
Korea, Clarke and White (minus Di Meola) toured acoustically in 2009 and released a live album in 2011 titled Forever. It included guest appearances from Bill Connors, Chaka Khan, and Jean-Luc Ponty.
In February 2011, the group began a world tour in Australia. The lineup for this tour was Corea, Clarke, White, Ponty, and guitarist Frank Gambale of the Chick Corea Elektric Band. Many dates included Dweezil Zappa’s Zappa Plays Zappa Band as an opening act with Corea occasionally appearing in Zappa’s band on keyboards, as well as Jean-Luc Ponty performing some of the songs he had performed with Frank Zappa.
Corea died of cancer on February 9, 2021.
All the members
Chick Corea – keyboards (1972-1977, 1983, 2008, 2010-2021; died 2021)
Stanley Clarke – bass (1972-1977, 1983, 2008, 2010-2021), vocals (1977)
Joe Farrell – saxophone (1972-1973, 1977; died 1986)
Airto Moreira – percussion (1972-1973)
Flora Purim – vocals (1972-1973)
Lenny White – drums (1973-1976, 1983, 2008, 2010-2021)
Bill Connors – guitar (1973-1974)
Steve Gadd – drums (1973)
Mingo Lewis – percussion (1973)
Earl Klugh – guitar (1974)
Al Di Meola – guitar (1974-1976, 1983, 2008)
Gerry Brown – drums (1977)
Harold Garrett – trombone (1977)
Gayle Moran – vocals, keyboards (1977)
James E. Pugh – trombone (1977)
John Thomas – trumpet (1977)
James Tinsley – trumpet (1977)
Ron Moss – trombone (1977)
Jean-Luc Ponty – violin (2010-2021)
Frank Gambale – guitar (2010-2021)