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Chick Corea: Creative Giant

By Published: May 16, 2011
AAJ: Why the separation between the two discs on Forever—acoustic versus electric?

CC: Well, it was an evolution from that electric moment, because that electric time in the studio, we were not making a recording, we were rehearsing for a one-time gig at the Hollywood Bowl, and it was basically RTF with friends. We invited Billy Connors, who was the first guitarist to play with RTF; and then Jean-Luc Ponty, who never played with RTF but is a close friend of ours and who was very much a part of the creation of the fusion music of the seventies that we were all a part of; and then Chaka Khan, who was also a part of that performance. So we were just rehearsing, and the tape was recording while we were rehearsing. But then after we did that one concert, Stanley, Lenny and I had already been planning to do a trio tour that year, 2009. At first we were going to take electric instruments, but then we decided at the last moment that we wanted to make it all acoustic music, so we went ahead and did, I don't know, fifty or sixty concerts with the trio. So that whole flow began with that rehearsal those couple of days in the studio. So there is a connection between Stanley, Lenny and I, and our connection with the electric side and the acoustic side that we finally did on that tour.

AAJ: What is so appealing to you about electric jazz-rock and fusion, versus straight-ahead and acoustic?

CC: What is really appealing to me are the musicians who make the music; the instruments that they play are secondary to me. I like playing with Stanley and Lenny both, and whether we play the electric instruments or the acoustic instruments, it's the same feeling. We have a connection and a communication that is very joyful and pleasurable, so really, the difference is in the instruments and the different forms of music that we can make using either ones.

The three of us basically grew up first with acoustic instruments and playing jazz; that was in the beginning, in the sixties, for me in the fifties and the sixties. Then electric instruments started to come around in the late sixties and early seventies, and anything with a keyboard attached to it always got my attention; so I got into the electric keyboards, and with Stanley I have been into electric bass and so forth. Stanley, like me, he loves it all. So when we play now with RTF, specially the new band that we are putting together, we combine both ways of playing: we play the electric instruments and the acoustic instruments and we combine them sometimes.

AAJ: Where did the name of the band, Return to Forever, come from?

CC: Well, it doesn't come from anywhere. It comes from my imagination, I suppose you could say. It's just a poetic phrase meaning "basic nature"; forever means no time and outside of time, and it is that place you go where it's just you, it's your basic natural way of being alive. We always try to go to that place, to return to that place, and it's easy to get into kind of a mechanical existence when you live on planet earth, and trying to make money, and pay for the rent and eat food, and keep the body healthy, and drive a car and so forth. But really where we live is in the creative imagination, and that's just...forever. Return to Forever is just a poetic way of saying it, that's all.

AAJ: What do you like the most about Forever?

CC: I like that it expresses, for the first time, the broad area of musical tastes that I share with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. It shows the electric side of our music, and it also shows not only the acoustic side but the fact that we chose those tracks from a long, sixty-concert tour, so touring and being on the road playing every night is part of our lives. I think this is the first time we ever put out a live album like that. So I think it shows more the basic essence and soul of what we do. In this way I am really happy about being able to share that with everybody.

AAJ: Lenny White said that this was the first time that the trio side of RTF, as an acoustic setting, had been documented.

CC: This is true. When Lenny joined RTF we had already made two recordings with the earlier version, with Flora, Airto and Joe Farrell. But when Lenny joined, we were playing the electric music. But almost every show we played, eventually it had some acoustic trio in it, but we never went on tour and played it as an essential thing, and this is the first time we have done that, which is exciting to me, too.

AAJ: There have been several jazz musicians that have already mentioned as examples of extreme and beautiful creativity through the years. Where do you think your creativity comes from?

CC: Well, I don't think creativity comes from any place. You can't look for a place. It's not in New Jersey, and it's not in Sao Paolo, and it's not at Whole Foods Market, it's not a place. It's the basic way that a spiritual being is, that a person is; it's the way you are. You are basically creative, so the problem is trying to continue to be creative in this life. But it is the most valuable thing we have, I think—creativity, our imagination, the ability to create something new, to have ideas, and then go ahead and do them. I don't think there's a place where it comes from; it comes from you.

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