Review Summary: Exquisite and wondrous. Light As A Feather is a marvelous addition to Jazz, as well as an undeniable classic.
The musical style that is portrayed in Light As A Feather
was rather intriguing for its time and place. Return To Forever arose as one of the defining acts in the early Jazz Fusion movement of the 1970's, yet another group of musicians that were birthed by the innovative genius of Miles Davis, but they completely deviated from the adopted styles of their contemporaries. Albums like The Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame
and The Weather Report's Weather Report
, established the familiar reputation that Jazz Fusion was a genre whose music emphasized solely on extensive soloistic spontaneity and ambient sonic textures. Implying that the once traditional conventions of Jazz music were now being integrated, and in some cases even replaced, with prominent outside influences like Progressive rock and Funk music. While this may be true for many acts of the time, Return To Forever initially remained faithful to the habitual customs of Jazz, which in the end helped distinguish them from their peers.
All of the pioneering Jazz Fusion groups of the time were founded by musicians who were in some way or another connected to Miles Davis. And thus, the sound of every group is often rooted from a particular album by 'The Prince of Darkness'. The early atmospheric and abstract nature of The Weather Report is derived directly from In A Silent Way
. The Mahavishnu Orchestra's aggressive and rock oriented style is obviously inspired by the more rambunctious side of Bitches Brew
. Return To Forever's music, on the other hand, originally took its sound from albums that reflect Miles Davis' transitional period from Post-bop to Jazz Fusion, such as Miles In The Sky
and Filles de Kilimanjaro
, a style much more in tune with Bebop than rock. The performance in Light As A Feather
continues to exude the elegant euphonic harmonies of its predecessor, while completely ignoring the more experimental approach that was being explored by other Jazz Fusion acts. But Light As A Feather is just as elaborate in its musicianship, though rather than being artistically complex, we are treated with pieces that keep us floating along nebulous clouds of exquisite melodies.
The album opens with "You're Everything"
, an overture that features the alluring voice of Brazilian singer, Flora Purim. This song is blossoming with radiance, first inviting us into a delicate and romantic environment before having us ascend into a more elevated musical performance. There are eminent Samba and Flamenco influences that are expressed within the music of the album, and it is obviously acquired from the Latin backgrounds of musicians, Chick Corea, Airto Moreira, and of course, Flora Purim. There is a very lively tempo that flows throughout "You're Everything"
, primarily catalyzed by Chick Corea's jubilant piano solos and Airto Moreira's jaunty percussive rhythms. It's a very provocative melody, and one that evokes an irresistible temptation to dance along its inviting harmonic merriment. "Captain Marvel"
and "500 Miles High"
exhibit the more dynamic nature of the album. "500 Miles High"
is definitely the highlight between the two, as it is overwhelmed with explosive and spontaneous musicianship. From Chick Corea's ever grandiose piano virtuosity, Stanley Clarke's lightning fast basslines, to Joe Farrell's eruptive saxophone solos, each musician perfectly execute their performances with such impressive agility and adroitness.
Though as electrifying and astounding as the other songs of the album may be, none match the majestic beauty of the album's concluding piece, "Spain"
. A breathtaking ode to the wondrous jewel of the mediterranean, "Spain"
borrows a lot of influence from traditional Spanish music. In the opening arrangement of the song, we find Chick Corea imitating a Flamenco style of playing on his piano, inciting a dramatic setting to set the mood before flourishing into a graceful melodic flare. Once again, each musician takes turns in the spotlight to display their musical dexterity. The most sumptuous performance is perhaps that given by Joe Farrell, whose prominent flute displays exercise the most versatility among the other instruments. Opulent and stunning, Joe Farrell solos always ornament the music with such elegance, whether it's in the overall melodic theme of the piece, or when he is venturing out on his own. But to be fair, each sound that emanates from every instrument are all equally important, for it's their intimate coalescence that makes "Spain"
such an illustrious marvel of musical sorcery. Light As A Feather is perhaps one of the most accesible Jazz Fusion albums of the time, and within its mellifluous allure, it's almost impossible to not be seduced by its charm. This is a truly entertaining work of art and simply a marvelous addition to Jazz, as well as an undeniable classic. This album alone is evidence that Return To Forever are, and will always be, recognized as one of the most distinguished acts in their respective genre.