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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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RETURN TO FOREVER

Returns - Live at Montreux 2008

Eagle Vision EREDV 727

 

 

  1. Introduction
  2. Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy
  3. Vulcan Worlds
  4. Sorceress
  5. Song to the Pharaoh Kings
  6. Al's Solo
  7. No Mystery
  8. Chick's Solo
  9. The Romantic Warrior
  10. El Bayo de Negro (Stanley's Solo)
  11. Lineage (Lenny's Solo)
  12. The Romantic Warrior (continued)
    Bonus Tracks
  1. Lineage (Lenny's Solo)
  2. Al's Solo
  3. Friendship (Chick's Solo)
  4. El Bayo de Negro (Stanley's Solo)
  5. Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant

Chick Corea - Yamaha grand piano, Yamaha Motif XS8, Rhodes Midi piano, Moog Voyager, Prophet 5
Stanley Clarke - Acoustic bass, electric bass
Al Di Meola - Acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Lenny White - Drums

As I remember it, Chick Corea chose the name of his group Return to Forever because he wanted to return to the old values of melodic invention which appealed to the public, while not forgetting the need for technical ability. Like other graduates of Miles Davis's experiments with jazz-rock (including John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams), Chick Corea wanted to develop jazz fusion. And he succeeded with such masterpieces as Spain, La Fiesta and No Mystery.

We are reminded of these ideas by the opening Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (the title-track of their 1973 album) - a catchy tune which is complicated but immediately memorable. Here we have that unexpected combination: technoflash with a heart! This DVD was recorded at last year's Montreux Jazz Festival as part of RTF's reunion tour. The band existed in various forms during the 1970s but the most popular line-up was the quartet here, which re-formed last year.

Vulcan Worlds is another complex but catchy tune, in which Chick bends notes on one of his encircling keyboards, and Stanley Clarke does his pioneering thumb-slapping on bass guitar before doing a phenomenally dexterous solo. Al Di Meola comes across like a guitar hero, making his guitar shriek and scream. No wonder the sleeve-note writer's teenage daughter said "This is kinda like Led Zeppelin".

Chick uses his keyboard instruments to introduce Sorceress with threatening human sounds and imitates drums at the start of Song of the Pharaoh Kings. He also coaxes the sound of an oboe and harpsichord from his multi-talented keyboards. Al Di Meola does a three-part solo on acoustic guitar before one of my favourite RTF tunes: the title-track from the 1975 album No Mystery. Again this mixes sublime technique with seductive melody. Stanley Clarke has by now shifted to the double bass and he plays a bowed solo, followed by Al with a gently thrumming guitar solo. Chick's piano solo displays his dexterity - a quality which the other players also need in this piece.

Chick's Solo is another three-part piece which includes hitting the piano strings with a drum mallet before moving into a jazz standard - the lovely Alice in Wonderland: a tender performance of a beautiful jazz waltz. The Romantic Warrior contains a neat bass/keyboards duet between Stanley and Chick. This leads into Stanley's solo: strumming the double bass as if it was a flamenco guitar. Then Lenny gets a drum solo, which starts with a stick in one hand and a brush in the other. The solos are actually interludes in The Romantic Warrior, which closes the Montreux concert.

The DVD also includes five "bonus tracks" recorded the same month in Florida. These start with four solos - one from each player - which are notably different from their solos at Montreux. Finally comes Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant, another melodic piece. Don't let the pretentious titles put you off, as this is classy music. These bonus tracks use a split-screen technique which is gimmicky rather than helpful, especially when the DVD is viewed on a fairly old-fashioned small-screen telly!

The sound quality is good throughout the disc, although the lighting at both concerts sometimes puts the musicians in semi-darkness or clothes them in a blue glow. At any rate, it is good to have this visual record of RTF's reunion tour. It reminds us that, however much some critics may sneer at jazz fusion, it can embrace music which is both skilful and accessible.


Tony Augarde



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