Join host Doug Crane on Wednesday, June 29 at 8 pm, for selections from the first album by Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, recorded for ECM Records in early February of 1972 but never released in the US until 1975.
Chick was one of many ex-Miles Davis sidemen exploring and experimenting with jazz fusion at the beginning of the 1970s. Each of them had their own focus and sound.
Guitarist John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra incorporated more elements of rock music, keyboard player Herbie Hancock’s music had more of a “funk” influence, and the band Weather Report which at its formation included bassist Miroslav Vitous, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and keyboard player Joe Zawinul emphasized a more avant-garde and free jazz musical conception.
Chick Corea’s Return to Forever was by contrast softer in texture, incorporated the sounds of the Bossa Nova, and was the only group discussed here to feature a vocalist. Some critics have referred to the band’s sound as “spacy” and a precursor to early new-age music.
Return to Forever marked a 180-degree turn from Chick’s most recent band Circle which was co-lead by saxophonist Anthony Braxton, drummer Barry Altschul and another Miles Davis alum, bassist David Holland. Following the breakup of Circle, Chick recorded two piano improvisation albums for ECM in 1971. Some writers suggested the albums were used to signal a clean break between the avant-garde Circle and the warmer, more delicate sound of Return to Forever.
Return to Forever’s cast of musicians includes Chick Corea who is heard exclusively on electric piano, Joe Farrell on flute, piccolo flute, and soprano saxophone, Stanley (credited as Stan) Clarke on upright and electric bass, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion along with Airto’s wife Flora Purim on vocals and additional percussion.
Prior to Return to Forever, Joe Farrell had appeared on Chick’s 1966 album Tones for Joan’s Bones. He was also a regular member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, a band that Chick would occasionally play on Monday nights at the Village Vanguard when the regular pianist Roland Hanna was unavailable. Joe and Chick were also members of drummer Elvin Jones’ band just prior to the formation of Return to Forever. Joe Farrell died from blood cancer in 1987 at the age of 48.
Chick and Stanley met on a gig in Philadelphia when Chick was called to sub with a band Stanley regularly played. Realizing each other’s musical talents, they were to become life-long friends and musical partners. Stanley was only 20 at the time Return to Forever was recorded.
Percussionist Airto (yet another ex-Miles Davis sideman) began performing professionally at the age of 13 in Brazil. By 1967 he was the co-leader of Quarteto Novo along with multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal.
Vocalist Flora Purim began her musical career in Brazil during the 1960s. Around 1969 she became a member of Quarteto Novo. Flora and Airto married soon after and within a year or two relocated to the United States.
Special Note: The National Endowment for the Arts awarded NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships to Chick Corea in 2006 and to Stanley Clarke in 2022. The NEA conducted interviews with each of them at the time of their awards. They’re available as transcripts, downloads, or podcasts HERE.
Tune in to The Night Beat with host Doug Crane on Wednesday, June 29 at 8 pm on KUVO JAZZ, the Oasis in the City!
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