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Return to Forever

Return to Forever

Return to Forever , influential jazz-rock-new age fusion group. Membership: Chick Corea, kybd. (b. Chelsea, Mass., June 12, 1941); Joe Farrell, wdwnds. (b. Chicago Heights, Ill., Dec. 16, 1937; d. Duarte, Calif., Jan. 10, 1986); Flora Purim, voc. (b. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 6, 1942); Stanley Clarke, bs. (b. Philadelphia, Pa., June 30, 1951); Airto Moreira, pere. (b. Itaiopolis, Brazil, Aug. 5, 1941); Lenny White, drm. (b. N.Y.C., Dec. 19, 1949); Al DiMeola, gtr. (b. Jersey City, N.J., July 22, 1954).

Initially, Return to Forever fused Chick Corea’s reputation as an improviser—earned with stints in the Latin jazz bands of Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria—and the cutting edge groups of Miles Davis and Anthony Braxton. After leaving Braxton’s avant-garde group Circle, Corea harked back to his early Latin days, bringing together Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim with sax player Joe Farrell and phenomenal young bassist Stanley Clarke. They made two albums, their self-titled debut and Light As a Feather, which included one of Corea’s best-known compositions, “Spain.” Both were moderate successes.

Retaining Clarke, Corea turned the group in a more rock/funk fusion direction, taking on drummer Lenny White—they worked together on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew—and running through several guitarists, including Earl Klugh and Bill Connors, before latching onto teen guitar prodigy Al DiMeola. This lineup created fierce, fiery fusion, with DiMeola’s astounding dexterity complimenting Clarke and White’s funky bottom. The second album featuring this new lineup, Where Have I Known You Before, generated enough excitement to reach #32 on the pop album charts in 1974. Their next album, 1975’s No Mystery, reached #39 (a very respectable performance for a jazz album) and won the Grammy that year for Best Jazz Performance by a Group. A year later, Romantic Warrior topped out at #35, and—although it took 14 years—the album eventually went gold. After a couple of live albums (a complete concert recording and an abridged version), the group mutated once again, this time into a 13-piece band that retained Corea and Clarke. This RTF charted at #38 with Music Magic in 1977 before Corea retired the subject, though the second lineup got together for a reunion in 1983.

Most members of RTF continued to have remarkable careers in jazz. Clarke produced several albums that eclipsed RTF in popularity, scoring a pop hit with his duo project with George Duke on the #19 “Sweet Baby” in 1981. Clarke went on to work with the group Animal Logic with Police drummer Stewart Copeland, Rite of Strings with Jean-Luc Ponty and DiMeola, and Vertu with Lenny White. He has also scored several award-winning film soundtracks. White, too, continued to record prolifically, both under his own name and as a studio musician. DiMeola began exploring music of the world, working with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia on flamenco projects, recording Astor Piazzola tangos, and forming the group World Sinfonia, dovetailing these eclectic pursuits with his more mainstream work. Corea continued as one of the most respected keyboard players in jazz, both electric and acoustic. He reflected this dual personality by leading two bands in the mid-1990s, the Akoustic and Elektric bands. He became a partner in Stretch Records late in the 1990s.

Discography

Light as a Feather (1972); Return to Forever (1972); Hymn of the Seventh (1973); Where Have I Known You Before (1974); No Mystery (1975); Romantic Warrior (1976); The Complete Concert (1977); Return to Forever (live; 1977); Music Magic (1977); Live (1992).

—Hank Bordowitz

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