JJ 11/72: Chick Corea – Return To Forever

Fifty years ago Ron Brown was thrilled by Corea's 'amaz­ingly lovely compositions' and the 'awe­somely inventive' Stan Clarke. First published Jazz Journal November 1972

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At the time of writing, Chick Corea’s joy-bringers are coming to the end of a stint at Ronnie’s that was extended by a week because they were knocking everyone out so much, and the release of their album will be a source of de­light for those who caught them and of remorse for anyone who didn’t bother, although ECM’s recording is so consis­tently terrific that hearing the LP on good stereo must be close enough to live club sound as makes little differ­ence.

Chick’s concern these days is to communicate and make people happy, and anyone who normally reacts with a sneer to musicians who go around making such statements is likely to be converted by the unsentimental warmth of this album. Much of it is down to Corea’s simply constructed but amaz­ingly lovely compositions, floating above the kind of Latin lilt you’d expect in the tunes of an ex-Mongo Santamaria sideman.

To interpret them he’s chosen an almost perfect team: Joe Farrell’s jazz virtues are well known, but the real frightener is Stanley Clarke, who at 20 is one of the most staggering in the long line of technically incredible and awe­somely inventive bass players to have appeared over the last few years. He plays a splendid solo during the first half of Sometime Ago. This track has a particularly beautiful theme, which doesn’t appear until about half way through the performance; no matter how many times you play it, there’s a real feeling of tension as the theme ap­proaches (once you know the cut well enough to remember the order of things that is) and joyful release when it’s finally heard.

Miss Purim isn’t really very good, sounding like Astrud Gilberto without much tonal quality, but the ambience is so satisfying that her presence causes no pain, even though the words of her two songs (Sometime and Game) are a bit simple minded.

Another high spot is the slow euphor­ic Crystal for piano and soprano, with occasional comments from the percus­sion, and here as elsewhere, Corea’s touch, sensitivity and control is just too much. You’ll find further examination of this music on the ‘Jazz in Britain’ page, but the record gets my highest recom­mendation.

Discography
Return To Forever; Crystal Silence; What Game Shall We Play Today (23 min) – Sometime Ago-La Fiesta (23 min)
Chick Corea (el-pno); Joe Farrell (flt/sop); Stan Clarke (bs/bs-gtr); Alrto Moreira (dm/perc): Flora Purim (vcl/perc). NYC, 2 & 3/2/72.
(ECM 1022 ST £2.25)