Return to Forever 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
Even in its heyday of the 1930s and 1940s when swing ruled the roost, jazz was never really in the stadium-filling league. The Return to Forever (RTF) jazz fusion band, possibly along with its genre stablemate Weather Report, may have been the closest jazz got to mass appeal acts.
RTF was founded and led by pianist-keyboardist Chick Corea in 1971 and has been through all sorts of lineups in the interim, breaking up and reforming several times over the past four decades. On August 1, RTF will be looking to fill the Caesarea Amphitheater when Corea et al come with the fourth incarnation of the band as part of a world tour.
In its present form, Corea will be accompanied by longtime colleague electric and acoustic bass player Stanley Clarke, guitarist Paul Gambale, drummer Lenny White and Frenchborn violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
Despite spending long periods pursuing other artistic avenues, it is a comfortable marriage among the five current members of the band, and all but Ponty have been on board the RTF train at some stage of its long – if staccato – history.
It is safe to say that RTF and, indeed, any of the fusion scene that exploded in the 1970s would probably not have happened without the guiding spirit of iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
Corea served his time with Davis, playing on ground-breaking Davis-led albums such as In a Silent Way
(1969) and Bitches Brew
“I think Miles was the spearhead of jazz music of the second half of the 20th century,” notes Corea. “He was always making changes, and he had a couple of groups [around the end of the 1960s] and was really in a transitional period.”
At the time, Davis was taking jazz in a completely new, more mass audience-oriented direction, and Corea was an integral part of that. “Miles was experimenting and wanted to communicate to a younger audience. A lot of things he did made an impression on all of us working with him in one way or another.”
They sure did. Keyboardist Joe Zaniwul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter – Shorter had also been a member of Davis’s second great quintet from the mid-1960s – went on to form seminal fusion band Weather Report; pianist-keyboardist Herbie Hancock put out landmark 1973 record Headhunters; and guitarist John McLaughlin created the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which incorporated Indian music into the jazz fold.
And in 1971 Corea set off with the initial RTF lineup, which included Clarke; former Davis sideman drummer Tony Williams, who was also to make his mark on the fusion scene with his own band; flutistsaxophonist Joe Farrell; Jewish Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim; and Purim’s husband, Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira.
“That was a turning point and a great influence on the scene,” says Corea Fusion is, by definition, a blend of styles, genres and musical stylings that each member of a band brings to the collective artistic fray. Even so, Corea says that when the RTF gang get together, regardless of the membership at the time and of the temporal lapse since their previous RTF confluence, they all smoothly lip into collaboration mode.
“Our main contact is that we have a mutual admiration, we like playing with one another, and we want to make music together. That, naturally, spawns a concert agenda that feeds off the band members’ joint efforts, as well as each musician’s own material. For this tour we chose some of the basic Return to Forever repertoire as the basis, but we are also playing music of Stanley’s, some of my music, and we’ll be playing a song of Jean- Luc Ponty’s and a song of Lenny’s. We’re calling it Return to Forever because it is Stanley, me and Lenny, but everyone is contributing.”
Despite the decades of synergy and mutual admiration, Corea says the band always comes back to the stage – and the recording studio – reenergized. “I don’t think any of these musicians leads static lives, none of us do.
We’re always in flux, with new ideas and moving from one thing to another. It is pretty much like a new project when we get back together again.”
The thousands who no doubt will throng the amphitheater in Caesarea can expect to groove with some familiar and trusted material from yesteryear and get into some new vibes from all the band’s celebrated members.Return to Forever will perform at the Caesarea Amphitheater on August 1 at 8:45 p.m. For more information about the band, visit http://return2forever.com/.For more information about the concert and tickets, call *2274 or go to www.hadran.co.il.