CHICK COREA Return To Forever (ECM)
Another example, as if one were needed, of what a phenomenal crucible of fusion talent Miles Davis’ electric band were, Chick Corea, who played with the trumpeter between 1969 and 1972, develops the genre in a different direction to that pursued by John McLaughlin. Where the guitarist took the chaos and disorder of Miles’ music and pushed it even further into the red, Corea moved in a light, fleet-footed, Latin American-influenced direction. No doubt this was aided and abetted by his employment of Brazilian husband and wife Airto Moreira and Flora Purim on percussion and vocals, the former being a fellow Miles alumnus. Purim’s weaving vocals and Joe Farrell’s flutes further distance “Return To Forever” from the median ploughed by, for example, Weather Report. It remains a fresh and progressive listen; in fact, it’s not too fanciful to draw a connecting line between this and Pat Metheny’s later ECM work. The latter might be more refined and precise – sometimes Corea’s music overextends itself, lurching close to calamity – but it’s rooted in the same bright, approachable aesthetic.
The lyrics are the album’s weak point, although their somewhat insipid tweeness can be overlooked simply because it’s also innocent and refreshing. “What Game Shall We Play Today”, for example, almost sounds like some crazy cross between “Sesame Street” and “The Girl From Ipanema”. The side-long closer “Sometime Ago / La Fiesta” moves from group improvisation to a vocal piece, finally to a flamenco-inspired closing section that could be “Sketches Of Spain” at 45 rpm. It's a lovely album, then, cheery without being cloying, a difficult trick to pull off in cynical times.