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Album Review

This double-disc set documents Return to Forever's unplugged tour of 2009. Its 19 tracks consist mainly of rearranged RTF tunes and jazz standards for piano trio, though there are wonderful surprises on disc two. Disc one is taken directly from concert appearances across the globe. The standards work well — considering how busy Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White can be together as well as solo. "On Green Dolphin Street," "Waltz for Debby," and "Hackensack" all swing, though they do feature moments of RTF's requisite knotty counterpoint. Originals include Clarke's new tune, the beautiful "La Canción de Sophia," as well as "Bud Powell" and "Windows" from two Corea solo recordings, and "Señor Mouse" and "No Mystery," both RTF tunes, round it out. The small complaint is that these three play so stridently and "perfectly" that they sound more like a studio band instead of a quick-thinking live unit. Everything is exceptionally played and recorded. The gems are saved for disc two, which consists mainly of rehearsals for the tour recorded at Mad Hatter Studios in San Francisco, complete with off-mike banter. Corea dons his Rhodes and other keyboards for an excellent version of "Captain Marvel" and a fully fused-out “Señor Mouse,” “Space Circus,” and “After the Rain,” all with original RTF guitarist Bill Connors playing his ass off with his former and future bandmates (Frank Gambale will assume guitar duties on tour). Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty will also join the new band formally in 2012, and he begins in that role here, appearing on "Armando's Rhumba" (he played on the original off Corea's My Spanish Heart LP), his own "Renaissance," a fine rendition of "I Loves You, Porgy" (one of two tunes with Chaka Khan on vocals), "After the Cosmic Rain," and "Space Circus." The other two surprises on disc two are a very soulful duet between Corea (on acoustic piano) and White on John Coltrane's "Crescent" and a stellar acoustic trio version of RTF's standard "500 Miles High," which was recorded at the Monterey Jazz Festival and contains plenty of fire. With its looseness, this second disc offers the real dynamic potential for RTF in the future and reveals the depth of near symbiotic communication between the bandmembers.

Customer Reviews

Corea, Clarke, White (and friends) at the top of their game

Lenny White's straightforward, no nonsense production, along with some masterfully accurate live and studio recording has captured Corea, Clarke, White (and friends) at their best. Forever highlights the communication, coherence and musical bonds that 40 years of playing jazz together can bring to standards or fusion classics. Disc 1 and the last track on Disk 2 showcase the trio's 2009 tour. Live trio recordings of jazz standards and reinterpretations from all 3 of the Return To Forever incarnations. Chic's piano is at it's fluid best, Stanley's bass tone and swing is as musical as it gets, and Lenny's drumming is as tight and imaginative as ever. I started to list out the highlights and found I was referencing every track. Whether it is On Green Dolphin Street, Waltz for Debby, or No Mystery, these are great, great versions with delightful solos, but they are trio interpretations - a team of 3 connected in thought, not just great individual musicians (which they are too). Clarke's La Canción De Sophia is a beautiful composition. You'll love it all.

Most of disc 2 is taken from rehearsals at Mad Hatter studios for one of the tour shows that would have guest appearances from Bill Connors, Jean-Luc Ponty and Chaka Khan. They are "live" in the studio, mostly one take versions, with some banter captured on the intros and outros. Although there is a transition to electric instruments, it's a natural progression from the acoustic trio, without any prominent synthesizer on show. Connors and Ponty show the stepping stone towards RTF IV, currently touring where Frank Gambale replaces Connors, who apparently doesn't leave California. Chaka Khan's jazz voice is an excellent instrument added to Chic's High Wire and Gershwin's I Loves You Porgy. The highlights, however, are the new evolved arrangements of After the Cosmic Rain and Space Circus. Connors restrained power and Ponty's violin augments the trio, rather than it being a jolt of a shift to a new band. This is a great (return to) Forever album.

Top Albums and Songs by Corea, Clarke & White

Forever, Corea, Clarke & White
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  • £11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Rock, Fusion
  • Released: 01 January 2011

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