Return To Forever were one of the most popular bands to emerge from the post-Bitches Brew jazz/rock scene in the early-’70s, featuring two Miles sidemen in keyboardist Chick Corea and drummer Lenny White as well as bass innovator Stanley Clarke and guitarists Bill Connors and Al Di Meola. A successful reunion tour in 2008 featuring Di Meola on guitar led to a stripped-down acoustic tour a year later, and Connors, vocalist Chaka Khan and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty were persuaded to guest with the Corea/Clarke/White trio at their Hollywood Bowl show. The double CD Forever documents the trio’s acoustic tour of US clubs, playing mainly jazz standards, and also the rehearsals with Khan and Ponty which feature mostly Return To Forever favourites.
The first CD of standards is workmanlike and beautifully played but fails to catch fire. Only Clarke’s gorgeous composition ‘La Cancion de Sofia’ really unites the players, and his bass feature, quoting heavily from ‘Spanish Phases for Strings and Bass’ from his classic debut album, injects some much-needed excitement. Corea is light and melodic on ‘Hackensack’ and it’s always a pleasure to hear the satisfying thok of White’s bass drum.
Disc 2 is marginally more interesting, though one has to question the logic of releasing the rehearsals for the Hollywood Bowl show rather than a sound recording of the actual show itself. It’s good to hear Bill Connors dusting off the Les Paul again but he can’t add much juice to a rather laboured ‘Senor Mouse’, while versions of ‘Armando’s Rhumba’ and ‘Space Circus’ add little to the originals. Chaka Khan’s guest spots on ‘High Wire’ and ‘I Loves You Porgy’ are rather charming, especially the latter track, featuring her excitedly meeting Ponty for the first time in the studio.