Earlier this year, jazz-rock fusion supergroup Return To Forever announced plans for a reunion tour after something like twenty years. They are actually playing tonight here in Seattle, and quite frankly I'm kinda' pissed that I'm going to be missing it.
You see, back in their day, RTF was what you would call a band of "musician's musicians."
Simply put, these guys were the shit.
Keyboardist and bandleader Chick Corea ("Our fearless leader," as bassist Stanley Clarke likes to call him) had already long since established his own reputation as a virtuoso on the keys with his work on seminal jazz albums like Miles Davis' groundbreaking fusion masterpiece Bitches Brew. Guitarist Al DiMeola was something of a prodigy at the time, though his lightning fast runs would later influence no less an axe slinger than Jeff Beck on albums like Blow By Blow. Drummer Lenny White's only real rival at the time was Billy Cobham.
And as for bassist Stanley Clarke? Well, he was simply something else entirely — basically reinventing the bass, and along with Larry Graham forever popularizing the "popping" style that remains a cornerstone of funk to this day.
But the other thing about RTF was that this was a band that rock audiences really got. In an era where the progressive rock of bands like Yes and Genesis raised the standards of pure musicianship within the game, this was a group of guys who were really without equal. Well, with the possible exception of Joe Zawinul's Weather Report and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra anyway.
Their run was brief, producing four great albums in the mid-seventies: Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before, the Grammy winning No Mystery, and their commercial breakthrough Romantic Warrior. On this just released two disc anthology, the best of those four records are brought together just in time for the reunion tour.