Includes jazz trio standards, updated RTF-classics, new music and more
Bonus disc features special guests Chaka Khan, Jean-Luc Ponty and original Return to Forever guitarist Bill Connors
Pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White – each a powerful force of nature in his own right – have done more in recent decades to redefine jazz-rock fusion and push the limits of its potential than any other musicians today. Together they formed the core of the classic, most popular and successful lineup of Return to Forever, the legendary seminal electric jazz fusion band.
After reclaiming the jazz-rock world in 2008 with the triumphant return of Return to Forever, Corea, Clarke and White decided to revisit where it all began, to get back to basics and the soul of their relationship. The result is Forever (CRE-32627-02), a two-CD set of 18 quintessential tunes set for release June 7, 2011 on Concord Jazz, a division of Concord Music Group.
Recorded live, disc one of Forever is a best-of sampler from Corea, Clarke and White’s “RTF-Unplugged” world tour in 2009. Highlights include jazz standards “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Waltz for Debby” and “Hackensack,” exquisite Corea-classics “Bud Powell” and “Windows,” Clarke’s beautiful new “La Canción de Sofia” and even RTF pieces “Señor Mouse” and “No Mystery.”
“The sets we played were 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, prolific composer and undisputed keyboard virtuoso. “Also included are some pieces from the Return to Forever songbook reworked in this acoustic setting.”
“This acoustic trio had not been documented up to this point,” explains White, an innovative and versatile drummer/producer/composer. “It was important to document this because that’s how we started. On the last day of our Keystone Korner gig in 1973 in San Francisco, we had two guitarists sit in, and it became electric. But we come from playing in the jazz tradition. RTF had a real jazz rhythm section, and I think that’s what distinguishes RTF from all the other groups.”
“Actually, the piano, the acoustic bass and small-sized drums were our original instruments,” Corea says. “No matter how much experimentation gets done on the electric instruments, this acoustic sound is what we grew up loving and where our roots are and always have been.”
Disc two is a bonus CD with its own story. To help kick off their tour in grand style, Corea, Clarke and White invited vocal great Chaka Khan, violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty and original Return to Forever guitarist Bill Connors to join them for a one-time only gig at the famed Hollywood Bowl in LA.
Connors reunites with his former RTF bandmates on several compositions from their groundbreaking Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy album, including Corea’s “Señor Mouse” and “Space Circus,” and Clarke’s “After the Cosmic Rain.”
Ponty’s contributions to the bonus CD are substantial. He performs on five tracks, including a long-overdue reunion with Corea and Clarke on “Armando’s Rhumba,” which he first performed on Corea’s 1976 album, My Spanish Heart. In addition to joining Corea, Clarke, White and Connors on the RTF cuts, he offers a breathtaking version of his fusion hit “Renaissance.”
Chaka Khan’s appearance marks a special highlight – a reprise of the 1982 recording Echoes of an Era, a collection of straight-ahead jazz with performances from Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson, along with Corea, Clarke and White (also produced by White). Khan’s amazing vocal chops, heard with her jazz-standard partners in this extraordinary setting, are stunningly demonstrated on a beautiful version of Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” and the Corea-penned “High Wire – The Aerialist.”
The preps for the Hollywood Bowl gig were recorded at Mad Hatter Studios in Los Angeles. The vibe is relaxed, complete with studio banter, laughter, screaming and even Chaka meeting Jean-Luc for the first time in the studio. Pushing the bonus CD over the top is the final track – an amazing version of Corea’s classic “500 Miles High,” which was recorded on the Corea, Clarke and White trio tour at the Monterey Jazz Festival
“There was real magic,” says renowned bassist, composer, and producer Clarke. “We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and we have a lot of history at Mad Hatter. Later, Lenny took the tapes and mixed them with GRAMMY®-winning recording engineer Al Schmitt. We originally didn’t intend to put this material out, but it sounded so great that we wanted to share this with our fans.”
Forever was produced by White and co-produced by Corea and Clarke. “I didn’t have to do a lot,” says White. “These guys are icons and the chemistry was great, so it was pretty simple. I have always enjoyed producing, and I’ve been involved with these guys as far back as Romantic Warrior.”
Return To Forever will debut a historic new lineup this summer on a massive tour of 32 US cities. The tour, Return to Forever IV with Corea, Clark, White, Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale brings a re-imagined musical dimension to both the wildly influential group and its repertoire.