Jazz: Sounds like they've been together forever

Published May 30, 2008 12:00 am
Jazz-fusion giants pick up where they left off three decades ago
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You can expect Return to Forever to be one of the tightest quartets you'll ever see, despite the jazz-fusion group not performing together in more than a quarter-century.

So the band must have been practicing like crazy, right? As of mid-May, "We haven't rehearsed yet," said Chick Corea, keyboardist and leader of the pioneering jazz-fusion band.

The group rehearsed for three days before the tour's first concert in Austin Thursday, but that's all. "We're improvising musicians," Corea said. "That's the meat of it."

The classic lineup of Return to Forever - Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White - has embarked on a world tour after nearly 30 years of pleas from rabid fans. While recent reunion tours of iconic rock groups Van Halen and The Police have been popular, neither of those bands can claim to have invented a whole genre of music.

RTF, as fans call it, lasted only five years - 1972 to 1977 - in three lineups, but during that half-decade, it created the genre of jazz-fusion. "We were trying something new," Corea said.

Corea, now 66, had a distinguished rsum before forming RTF. In 1968, after years of being a sideman to jazz pioneers such as Stan Getz, Corea replaced Herbie Hancock on piano in Miles Davis' band and played on the legendary jazz albums "Filles de Kilimanjaro," "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew."

After three years performing alongside Davis, Corea left and formed an avant-garde jazz band, Circle, with bassist Dave Holland, drummer Barry Altschul and saxophonist Anthony Braxton.

But he became frustrated, because he felt avant-garde jazz was too esoteric. He sought a wider audience by blending jazz with rock, a relatively new genre he loved.

Corea recruited performers he believed would share his quest, including Clarke, who would be the only member of RTF to last through all three incarnations. White joined shortly after the creation of the group; Di Meola, then 19, joined in 1974.

Originally a cult band with few fans outside jazz circles, RTF grew in popularity throughout the mid-1970s, scoring a gold-selling album in 1976 with "Romantic Warrior." In 1977, after the band released "Musicmagic," Corea disbanded the group - reportedly because Clarke left the Church of Scientology, of which Corea was a devout member - and all members went on to successful solo careers.

Corea discounted reports of animosity between band members. "No friendship is perfect," he said. "We've been friends all along."

The reunion gigs weren't prompted by money, Corea said, because all of the members are successful on their own. "I think it's going to be a blast," he said. "That's why we're doing it."

Corea said the band could be sustainable after the tour, only "not at the expense of other things we've been doing."

"The only expectation I have," the legendary jazz pioneer said, "is to have fun."

At Kingsbury

* RETURN TO FOREVER performs Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City, on the University of Utah campus. Tickets are $35 to $85 at www. kingsburyhall.org or by calling 801-1581-7100. Free parking and a shuttle will be available at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus