Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Chick & us

Cultural High Water Mark:
The Return of Return to Forever

Last year Tamra and I had the great good fortune of seeing Chick Corea and Return to Forever perform live at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

The recordings that were made of that tour are now available, and I just heard the CD and relived the experience.  Man, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a freakin’ RELIGIOUS experience.

I know how boring it is to be “explained to” about a concert. I openly resent anyone trying to convey to me why the show I just missed was the greatest thing ever, life-changing, awesome, blah, blah, blah.

The ONLY REASON I am taking the time to write (and hoping you will take the time to read, and then further take the time to LISTEN) is that there IS now an excellent recording, beautifully produced, of a show I feel marks a new high point in the aesthetics in our culture today.

I mean, if you couldn’t pick up a CD to listen to it, I wouldn’t have the effrontery begin to describe it to you just to expose you to my own verbal embroidery.  But you can, and you really oughta.

You know when some artistic collaborations just achieve so much that it makes a new summit to aspire to?  That’s what these guys have done.

I’m not a musician.  I can’t tell you why the show was so transporting and marvelous.  I was just one of several thousand mesmerized audience members, (and when I looked around, a LOT of them looked like musicians to me.)  And believe me, they were MESMERISED.

Not mesmerized like audiences that are being clubbed with monster bass and head splitting volume, holding on to consciousness thru an assault of rhythm and noise.  Mesmerized like a little child watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time.  Admiring, captivated, enraptured, totally absorbed in the fantasy.

These were grownups.  Tired, beaten down grownups from the Valley!  BLISSED OUT.

Crazy, right?

It was jazz, and I guess maybe a lot of people say they don’t care for jazz.  But you couldn’t HELP but enjoy this, even if you can’t stand jazz.  It was so beyond any one style and so embracive of all kinds of music, it was like Jazz 2.0.

This is jazz that Beethoven would love, that Queen Elizabeth would love, that Thomas Jefferson would love, that Edison and Tesla and Carleton Fisk and the Marx Brothers would love.  It was pure creative genius.

I’m so bloody GRATEFUL they did such an excellent job producing the CD so I can remember what the heck the dream was all about.

Okay, I know this much about music: the first CD is electric instruments, the second is ACOUSTIC.

The acoustic set is just phenomenal.  Stanley Clarke made his big upright bass sing like a whale, like a wind going thru a canyon, like a lover’s croon… okay, I didn’t want to try to describe, but you just HAVE to hear it.

Stanley is out of this world, and in a world I want to go live in.

Al Dimeola played guitar.  Okay, this guy is like Shakespeare with the guitar.  He paints like Botticelli and like Rembrandt and like Basquiat with the guitar.  He has no capacity for fatigue.  None of these guys do.  They play a mile a minute for a couple hours, not even panting.  They smile, they groove, they blow.   They break land speed records, and then they break World Harmony records and Universal Elegance records.  Are they even there?  They seem like projections on a piece of lightweight silk with all the substance of a candle flame.

Lenny White is the drummer.  He is a mind reader.  He knows what is going on in every dimension that intersects with the space containing the players onstage, the past, present, over to the left ten miles… and he lays down a multi-colored net that the others dance all over, then scoops up the net catching the whole audience inside, then he breaks the net into pieces, then he builds a series of ladders that go to Mars and back… Sheesh.  Even he doesn’t pant.

Mr. Chick Corea is the fellow who apparently runs the show.  Apparently he is well known to the other musicians.  They seem rather interested in what he is doing onstage.  I felt they must have met one another before the show.  Maybe worked some things out ahead of time.

Chick sits at his piano and creates an entire universe about fifty times bigger than this one made famous by the Hubble telescope, and then takes the whole audience on a fast tour, no seat belts.  He is a God.  He hits ninety seven billion eight hundred and fifty five million notes in perfect sync with the other Gods in the group and never gets one out of place, not ONE.  And each note is a story, and the story gets completed in the mind of each beholder, all mixed up with their past, their experiences and feelings and dreams.

I don’t know what else to say to you, except to beg you to do yourself the supreme favor of accepting the invitation to dive out of this crazy, unkempt, ratty, nasty universe of force and punishment, and dive into the universe of Return to Forever on their new live concert album, available wherever deathless, sublime monuments to the aesthetic potential of the human spirit are sold.

Or go to http://www.return2forever.com/

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Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. It’s been said that the two artforms that are truly American are motion pictures and jazz.

    Sure, citizens (magicians) of other nations might’ve helped invent the technology of movies; and there have been classic films (and schlock) produced in other countries. But movies grew up and matured in countless American theaters and mindsets.

    And though it has been infused by and has influenced just about every other genre of music that there ever was and is (and undoubtedly will be), jazz has almost defined the American experience in the world we know.

    All those infinite notes, of infinite qualities, that you have experienced (and described so well, even though as you also rightly note they truly are so indescribable), Jim, and that come together in purely jazzical, magical ways — harmonies, rhythms, and tunes that are often, typically, so unpredicatble, so surprising, so inspiring and yet in some, perhaps instinctive way are so familiar, so comforting, so real — are not unlike the character of our incredibly diverse people of our uniquely pluralistic society, neither melting pot nor patchwork quilt but a human composition jazzically, magically American.

    And like a good jazz ensemble, at its best, perhaps defying all explanation, it works.

  2. I was at that show. Your description is accurate. During Stanley’s incredible solo someone yelled out “ARE YOU HUMAN??!!” And, of course, none of those players are. The group and the show totally changed what I thought a concert could be.


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