Primary Instrument: Band/ensemble/orchestra
Miles Davis' electric bands in the late ‘60s (featured on such classic albums as In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew) served as the incubator for several pioneering jazz fusion bands, including Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter’s Weather Report and Chick Corea’s legendary Return to Forever, whose lifespan stretched from 1972 to 1977 with three different versions of the band.
After a touring absence of more than 25 years, the potent jazz-rock flagship quartet edition of Return to Forever returns in 2008. This highly anticipated reunion will see the group’s classic lineupCorea on keyboards, Al Di Meola on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drumsembark on an expansive summer tour with dates in Europe and the United States.
A special Return to Forever anthology featuring remixed and remastered tracks from the classic albums Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery and Romantic Warrior will also be released to coincide with the tour. And a concert DVD could well be released, featuring the band revisiting the material from their years together.
After Corea left Miles’ employ, he helped found the avant-garde acoustic quartet Circle with saxophonist Anthony Braxton, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul. The band worked from 1970-’71, but Corea sought a new, less-esoteric direction where he could express his music to larger audiencesin a band committed to communicating the purity of sound, the challenge of improvising on complex compositions and the exploration of melding the jazz tradition with rock music. The time was ripe for what followed.
Return to Forever launched in 1972 with its self-titled debut featuring a quintet that Corea assembled, comprising Joe Farrell on flute and saxophone, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion, Flora Purim on vocals, and Stanley Clarke on bassthe only RTF member who served in all three editions of the band. With a Brazilian tinge imbued in the fusion, the first album featured such noteworthy tracks as “Sometime Ago,” “Crystal Silence” and “La Fiesta.” Later that year, the same RTF lineup delivered its follow-up, Light As a Feather, renowned as one of the band’s best recordings. Tunes included such Corea classics as “Spain,” “500 Miles High” and “Captain Marvel.”
In 1973, when Airto and Flora left RTF to start their own band and Farrell also took his leave, Corea enlisted a new lineup to explore a harder-edged rock-jazz fusion. The electric guitar was added, and placed front and center along with Corea on electric keyboards. The guitarist for the first of the four quartet albums, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), was Bill Connors, who soon left the band to pursue his solo career. He was replaced in 1974 by 19-year-old, fresh-from-college, hard-rocking Al Di Meola, who cut his eyeteeth in the band. He was featured on the remaining three quartet albums and proved to be an integral member of the band.
While drummer Steve Gadd was originally pegged to be in RTF, he opted out because he was unwilling to tour, and was replaced by funk-fueled Lenny White, who Corea knew from the Bitches Brew sessions. Clarke remained the bassist, developing during this time his singular electric bass style. This lineup is considered to be the golden RTF group, which recorded three popular crossover albums: 1974’s Where Have I Known You Before (Di Meola’s debut), 1975’s Grammy-winning No Mystery and 1976’s studio finale, Romantic Warrior, which became the best selling of all RTF recordings.
For the third and final version of RTF, Clarke remained, Farrell returned, and drummer Gerry Brown and vocalist Gayle Moran were enlisted. In addition, Corea brought aboard a four-piece brass section. That group recorded the 1977 Musicmagic album and toured throughout the year, documented by the album R.T.F. Live.
It was RIP for RTF in 1977, but the group was resurrected once for a quartet concert in 1983, and is now fully returning in this year’s exciting reunion.
(1976 Columbia -- Corea, Clarke, Di Meola, White)
(1975 Polydor -- Corea, Clarke, Di Meola, White)
Where Have I Known You Before
(1974 Polydor -- Corea, Clarke, Di Meola, White)
Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy
(1973 Polydor -- Corea, Clarke, Connors, White)
(1977 Columbia -- Corea, Clarke, Moran, Farrell, Pugh, Thomas, Tinsley, Garrett, Brown)
Light as a Feather
(1972 Polydor -- Corea, Clarke, Purim, Farrell, Moreira)
Return To Forever
(1972 ECM -- Corea, Clarke, Purim, Farrell, Moreira)
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