Pianist Chick Corea, founder of the pioneering 1970s jazz-fusion group Return to Forever, has been rehearsing with the fourth incarnation of the band before taking the stage at the Montreal International Jazz Festival Sunday.
Return to Forever IV includes two previous players, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, and new members Frank Gambale, the Australia-born guitar wizard and member of Corea’s Elektric Band, and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
“Over the years, people kept bringing up Return to Forever,” said Corea, 70, by phone. “It was an encouragement. It meant that people like that music.”
Corea is one of the headliners of the 32nd edition of the world’s largest jazz festival, which opens June 25 and runs through July 4. The festival’s 750 outdoor concerts and 250 indoor concerts attract more than 2.5 million each year.
Last week, Prince announced that he would play two shows, on Friday and Saturday, at Montreal’s 2,300-seat Metropolis, which quickly sold out. Former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant also sold out his Friday night gig with his Band of Joy at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
Other headliners include Tony Bennett, John Legend, K.D. Lang, Sade and singer-songwriter Marianne Faithfull.
The traditional jazz lineup features big names such as Canada’s own Diana Krall, vocalists Dianne Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater, a duet made up of pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman, and veteran bassist David Holland collaborating with pianist Kenny Barron.
Corea said the preliminary Return to Forever song list will have past hits such as “500 Miles High,” “Romantic Warrior” and “Light as a Feather.” The group will also play one of Clarke’s signature tunes, “School Days,” from the 1970s recording of the same title.
“We carved out 6 days to put something real tight and strong together,” said Corea, who will open the Return to Forever tour in Northampton, Massachusetts, Friday night followed by a show in Syracuse, New York, on Saturday. “When we rehearse, it’s very, very open and everyone’s naturally committed to perfecting what we’ve got.”
(The Montreal International Jazz Festival runs June 25 through July 4. Information: http://www.montrealjazzfest.com)
(Patrick Cole is a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)