Polydor Promo - 1/73
Chick Corea talks to you -- and his boyish face is calm, his manner casual. His eyes, however, betray his excitement as he talks about music. They reach out and hold you, communicating on levels that go beyond speech. And that's what Chick Corea's music is all about. Communication.
Chick Corea was born in Chelsea, Mass., just outside Boston, the son of Armando Corea, who led his own dixieland band in the thirties and still gigs around the Boston area playing cocktail dates. Chick remembers that his father sat him down in front of the often-used family piano (the house was always filled with music) when he was five years old -- he would've much preferred to be out playing baseball, but he dutifully began practicing -- and learning -and he's never stopped.
Thanks to a sympathetic teacher, Chick became something of a young classical virtuoso. He loved the classics and also heard (and played) a lot of be-bop, the reigning intellectual music of the day. If the truth be known, he was very down on pop music.
Yet, pop music was a way to break into the professional ranks, and Chick put in time with Billy May and Warren Covington, then moved closer to his roots in a one-year stint with Mongo Santamaria. He played with trumpet man Blue Mitchell and Stan Getz, and then spent a most successful two years with Miles Davis. In his tenure with Miles, Chick began to make quite a name for --himself in jazz circles. The young pianist had a lot of ideas that were just bursting to be heard, however, and soon went out on his own.
He then formed one of the most exciting and adventurous avant-garde groups of the past few years, Circle. Anthony Braxton was on reeds, Dave Holland played bass and Barry Altschul played drums. Circle made a kind of music that was demanding and introspective, a music that, Chick admits, focused more on technique than communication.
And then something happened to Chick Corea. He began to realize that music was not an end in itself, but a way of reaching people, reaching down into people as, perhaps, no other art form could. And it was then that the seed of his present group, Return to Forever, was planted.
Since 1970, when Return to Forever was formed, the aim of this extraordinary musician has been to communicate -- basically, honestly, powerfully. And he has surrounded himself with musicians who share that view.
All-star bassist Stan Clarke hails from Philadelphia. He's played with stellar saxmen Joe Henderson, Pharoah Sanders, Dexter Gordon and Gato Barbieri. His affinity for melodic improvising and solid rhythm makes him a Return to Forever stalwart, Stan's written some great tunes for the band as well.
Rhythm is held down by percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreira, who came up from Argentina (where he was, surprisingly enough, a singer) and quickly became one of the most in-demand drummers around. He's played with Miles, with Cannonball Adderley, with Gato. And when he does his shrieking-singing-drumming solos ... well, to put it mildly, it's rather exciting.
Vocals are handled by Flora Purim (Airto's wife, by the way), who is a legend in her native Argentina. Her smoky tone and rhythmic sense add latin samba-spice to this incredible group. Flora moves effortlessly from sensuous ballads to mercurial vocalise, lending down-to-earth substance to an ensemble of musical astronauts.
Veteran reedman Joe Farrell puts in a guest appearance on their Polydor debut album, Light As A Feather -- deceptively titled for a group that is nothing if not "heavy", despite their gravity-defying skills.
Collectively, they form Return to Forever -- an appropriate, and appropriately named, cosmic backdrop for the pianistic fireworks of Chick Corea. A masterful synthesis of feeling and technique, of earthiness and otherworldliness, of jazz, latin and pop elements, makes for a unique and satisfying brand of progressive music.
It's music that defies categorization. Honest, powerful, direct yet subtle, rhythmic, melodic -- all such terms can only come close to what Chick Corea and Return to Forever are doing. Again, their collective title sums it up as well as anything: a timeless journey through psychic vistas of past, present and future.