Return To Forever

went to see Chic Corea and Return to Forever last night at the Mann Music Center in Philly.

the show was unbelievable. these guys didn’t skip a beat. al di meola still moves his fingers faster than humanly possible. stanley clark — who i think basically invented slap bass/lead bass — blew me away. they had their instruments either identical to the late 70s, or — in Chic’s case — modern marvels are able to replicate the precise sounds of some of those no-longer-in-existence keyboards and synths.

bela fleck was the opening act. these guys are awesome and have one of the premier bass players in the world. but RTF made the flecktones seem amateur in skill (and believe me, they are not! bela and the ‘tones are an incredible mix of 4 virtuousos)

i just kept shaking my head in disbelief at what i was witnessing up close and personal. first row, center, just behind the orchestra section of seating thanks to my friend Clay and his VIP pass! i think we had the best seats in the house. close enough to see all the detail, but not too close where you miss the wider aspects of the whole band.

you could see utter joy in the band member’s eyes as they hammered out the songs. in a jazz setting, and sitting close, you can really see the tremendous on-stage communication that goes on between the band members. it was especially fun when they would do the classic guitar-piano duels, or bass-piano duels. Chic would slam down an incredible riff, then stanley or al would follow up with a mimic, and “up the ante” maybe with a bit more. back and forth they would go until i figured their instruments — or hands — would be on fire.

though they were all very appreciative (and humbled) of the audience and the cheering throngs, they have it wrong. i believe (for me for sure), that it is we, the fans, that are truly blessed and thankful to have been in their midst for at least one night. an unforgettable evening of music genius that just does not come around too often in one’s lifetime. it would be like hearing mozart live. (and i don’t say this lightly.) i am so very grateful!

oh, and i won a prize during the trivia game! the 2008 tour book (or whatever you call it — thing with photos and their tour dates). quotes like:

* “It was a moment… the four of hadn’t been together in the same space since the 70s. But when we get into the throes of playing, it’s right back to that zone. It feels pretty fresh.” — Chic Corea

* “This reunion is going to really be nice. All of us have been practicing… because the music is demanding even at this point to me.” — Stanley Clarke

* “So many years have passed since we last played together. I’m a different person and play differently. We all do. In fact, when we sat and listened to our old albums, there were times when even we, ourselves, couldn’t believe some of the things we were physically pulling off. There’s something to be said about youth and envy.” — Al DiMeola

* “Playing together again was like riding a bike. It sounded great from the first rehearsal. We had to re-familiarize ourselves with the notes — we haven’t played them in 25 years.” — Lenny White

it was truly amazing music. every song got a standing ovation. some of the most demanding music you would ever hear — or see. and the crowd knew it and appreciated it.

i continue to bask in the soul-stirring glow of the immeasurable grace and beauty of the RTF notes left hanging in the stratosphere. thank you!