Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Return to Forever - The Mothership Returns (Eagle Rock, 2012)

Return to Forever is a legendary group among jazz fusion fans. The group was begun in the early 1970’s by keyboardist Chick Corea and a shifting cast of musicians. They were a staple of the jazz fusion scene throughout the 1970’s remaining a popular group until they became dormant in the late 1970’s. This is a collection of music from their second reunion tour, the music and video for this two CD/one DVD set recorded during the 2011 tour. The musicians on this particular formation of the group are Chick Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass, Lenny White on drums along with Jean-Luc Ponty on violin and Frank Gamble on guitar. The music is slick and well polished and the sound quality is bright and immediate. Pulling from the band’s earlier work with songs like “Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy” and “The Romantic Warrior” they juxtapose those group performances against solo spots like Corea’s beautiful jazzy composition “Spain” and Clark’s bass-popping, crowd pleasing “School Days.” The group plays well as a whole, working together to try to achieve an organic sound on some very lengthy improvisation. Corea works a bank of keyboards and synthesizers, and Ponty is an intriguing addition to the band, with his swooping and swaying violin developing key textures in the musical experience. There is also a DVD included as part of the package, featuring a couple of full length performances and a film taking viewers behind the scenes of the music. Fans nostalgic for the fusion era of the 1970’s will undoubtedly enjoy this package, the musicianship is first rate and the players are fully committed to the marriage of music and technology. This is sort of like “arena rock” for jazz with a strong, powerful sound that flirts with science fiction and other mythology in its makeup but strives to integrate the driving power of rock and roll with the subtlety and intricacy of jazz. The Mothership Returns - amazon.com

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