Return to Forever

As a broadcaster who covered, and a fan who followed, the Return to Forever Returns 2008 World Tour, it fulfilled-if not surpassed-my expectations. In so many ways I hated to see it end. I believe I speak for many other RTF fans who continue to dream of more to come. As Lenny White told me when I first spoke to the guys in the autumn of 2007 at the time of the initial announcement of the tour, there is a need today for high-level music to feed music lovers who are hungry for art like this. Indeed, Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White delivered that.

There was a spirit of anticipation for a reunion before the tour became a reality. Chick and Al reunited in 2006 to record on Al’s solo project, Consequence of Chaos, and Al, Stanley and Lenny appeared together at the Fourth Annual Stanley Clarke Scholarship Benefit in Hollywood, playing RTF’s Grammy winning tune “No Mystery” with Patrice Rushen in the piano chair.That tantalized me with thoughts of having Chick on keys playing with the other guys again.

Behind the scenes, they were talking, and there seemed to be a feeling of unfinished business in the air. Chick told me how the 1983 reunion tour, which featured mostly new material, hadn’t quite pleased the audience enough, and that was the most important thing to the band. They didn’t want to disappoint us. With that underlying concern and the desire of the old friends to return to play again, the stage was set for the marvelous tour that followed in 2008. Without a doubt, the return of RTF was the jazz event of the year.

From the first shows in Austin,Texas, to the spring and summer shows in the western part of North America, RTF fans went to see their heroes playing their monumental music. I waited patiently until my chance came at the Montreal Jazz Festival in July. It was a night I’ll never forget.

Not long after the Montreal show, the guys traveled throughout Europe for a month, then returned for the last leg of the tour in the eastern part of the U.S., where the band had originally been born. RTF made its way through Florida, Georgia and Maryland before hitting their hometowns to close it out. Stanley returned triumphantly to the streets of Philadelphia, Chick got to play Boston (no word on whether he got to drive down the street in Chelsea that is now named for him), and I was there for the next-to-last show as the tour ended on an incredible peak when hometown heroes Lenny and Al got to play for an army of fans, friends and family in New York City.The band had come home, literally, but figuratively too … to the hearts of their fans, who never lost hope of seeing Chick, Al, Stanley and Lenny once again on stage together and hearing those songs once more.

When the tour was over, I had my own set of personal memories from the two shows I attended, but I still wanted more. Then I heard of the DVD that was recorded at their performance at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. It’s truly a treasure. And now, with the CD collection of the best performances of the tour, RTF fans will get the complete package, an exciting documentation of the reunion. In addition to the entire set list from the tour, there is a special additional performance of the RTF classic “500 Miles High,” performed in Montreux, as well as the only new song Chick wrote for RTF,“Opening Prayer.” At their London performance, RTF received a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Sir George Martin, and the audio performance of “Romantic Warrior” from that ceremony is also included in this collection.

What makes the live recordings so remarkable is that they are at once nostalgic and yet so full of the 21st century.The songs, so familiar to fans of early RTF, have been transformed by the band into new pieces of art. What was then is also now, as fans who originally experienced the music are treated with new sensations and realizations. RTF returned, and the art the band created anew is then-and-now forever-timeless, and a part of all of us for all time.

If RTF never performs or records again, I just may be able to die happy with this great treasure chest of live performances from the tour. But I’m not giving up that easily. When Chick left the stage that night in New York, he got the last word in on the microphone and said something like,“We’ll see you next time.” Maybe that was a flippant statement, but, Chick, I’m inclined to hold you to that—and so are a legion of fans.

– Russ Davis

Disc 1

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy
  3. Vulcan Worlds
  4. Sorceress
  5. Song to the Pharoah Kings
  6. Children's Song #3 / Passion, Grace & Fire / Mediterranean Sundance / Café 1930 / Spain
  7. No Mystery

Disc 2

  1. Friendship / Solar
  2. Romantic Warrior
  3. El Bayo de Negro
  4. Lineage
  5. Romantic Warrior
  6. Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant
  7. 500 Miles High
  8. BBC Lifetime Achievement Award to RTF / Romantic Warrior