Jazz CD Reviews
Corea, Clarke & White – Forever – Concord Records
Published on June 4, 2011
Corea, Clarke & White – Forever – Concord Records CRE-32627-02 (2 CDs) *****:
(Chick Corea – piano/keyboards; Stanley Clarke – acoustic/elec. bass; Lenny White – drums; Guests: Bill Connors – guitar; Jean-Luc Ponty – elec. violin; Chaka Khan – vocals)
The stellar fusion band Return to Forever always had as its base and foundation a tight acoustic jazz trio, and drummer Lenny White feels that’s what distinguished Return to Forever from the other fusion groups. After working together nearly 40 years the three trio members decided to encore their 2008 world tour with the large ensemble with their first-ever trio tour during 2009. They would get back to the basics of their relationship in a totally acoustic situation. Most of their repertory consisted of jazz standards from Miles, Monk, Bill Evans and others, mixed with some of the Return to Forever numbers reworked for the trio setting.
That’s basically what’s to be found on the Disc 1 of this set – an all-acoustic compilation of eight tunes, with the first four and the closing two all recorded live at Yoshi’s in Oakland – probably the best jazz club in Northern California. There’s also one recorded at Tokyo’s Blue Note and another at Jazz Alley in Seattle. Clark delivers a heartfelt doublebass solo on Waltz for Debby. Corea’s great original tune, Bud Powell, gets a quietly hip and swinging treatment in perfect tribute to Powell’s general style. Stanley Clarke does a glorious bowed bass solo at both the opening and conclusion of his tune, La Cancion de Sofia. Monk’s Hackensack has a drum intro by White and then Chick starts off with an uptempo ride on Monk’s quirky harmonic structure. A somewhat spectacular drum solo by White is heard in the center of the Monk track.
Disc 2 was actually recorded before 1 – ten selections from some rehearsals held for the trio’s 2009 Hollywood Bowl date, to which they invited some guests: Bill Connors, Jean-Luc Ponty and Chaka Khan. The electronic aspects of Connors’ guitar and Ponty’s violin brought the acoustic trio back into a more electric mode. The second track here is another version of Corea’s swinging Senor Mouse, but with the added voice of Bill Connors’ guitar. Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba features a perfect Jean-Luc Ponty violin solo, making it sound like it was originally written for the electric violin as the lead instrument. Ponty appears on five of the tracks, and I thought he sounded better than on his own solo albums. After the Cosmic Rain is one of his trippy, somewhat psychedlic tunes that sounds more like his usual repertory. Chaka Khan appears on two of the tracks, joining both Connors and Ponty for a touching treatment of Gershwin’s I Loves You Porgy. Corea’s own 500 Miles High brings the second CD to a close with great solos by all three original trio members, without any of their guests. Unlike the other nine tracks from studio sessions, this one was recorded live during the trio’s appearance at the 2009 Monterey Jazz Festival.
TrackList: CD1: On Green Dolphin Street; Waltz for Debby; Bud Powell; La Canción de Sofia; Windows; Hackensack; No Mystery; Señor Mouse. CD2: Captain Marvel; Señor Mouse; Crescent; Armando’s Rhumba; Renaissance; High Wire–The Aerialist; I Loves You Porgy; After the Cosmic Rain; Space Circus; 500 Miles High.
— John Henry