Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
At the 52nd Monterey Jazz Festival, three-quarters of the stellar fusion band Return to Forever shared a single stage. They are Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White on piano, bass and drums, respectively.
In 1968, Corea (born 1941) recorded the trio classic Now He Sings, Now He Sobs with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes. It has become a much-taught trio album, and Corea’s spinning blues choruses in the opening track, “Matrix,” are part of a pivotal moment in jazz piano. A great career begins here.
Corea and drummer Lenny White (born 1949) both played on the Miles Davis double electric LP Bitches Brew (1970). Host Dee Dee Bridgewater says that White is one of her favorite drummers ever, while Corea says that when he plays “On Green Dolphin Street,” he always thinks of Miles Davis. And Corea’s choice of “Waltz for Debby” honors Bill Evans, who worked with Davis a decade prior to Chick Corea.
Just after Bitches Brew, bassist Stanley Clarke (born 1950) moved from Philadelphia to New York, and right away, he too was working with the name players. Prior to 1976’s School Days, it was practically unheard of for a bassist to release an album as a leader, but Clarke’s tone and technique — also present in this trio — are not meant for the background.
Now, as then, these players create an irresistible flow. Then it was electric, but at Monterey on Sept. 20, 2009, it’s acoustic and highly charged.
Recording by Ron Davis, A Wing and A Prayer. Surround Sound re-mix by Duke Markos.