I don't know to much about jazz or jazz fusion, I tend to listen to artists such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane on occasion and that's just about it when it comes to jazz. A few months ago my friend showed me a psychedelic "jazz fusion" band called Medeski, Martin and Wood. After reading some more reviews about the band I was instantly hooked and needed to hear some more of this fusion music. While looking into more fusion bands I discovered a few groups that I really enjoyed and the rest was either boring or cheesy. One of those bands just happened to be Return to Forever and they probably stand as one of my favorite fusion bands as of today.
When listening to Romantic Warrior
the first thing that stands out is Chick Corea's electric keyboard playing. Throughout the album his mad skill sparkles creating a majestic and bouncy atmosphere. Corea's energetic style is immediately apparent on the albums opener Medieval Overature
overshadowing both the bass and guitar playing. Towards the middle of the song Stanley Clarke's quick bass playing is compelling yet sublime and Corea's lush keyboard chords are the icing on the cake making Medieval Overture
a zany little number that will get you on yo' feet in no time.
The second track, Sorceress
is a bit more funky yet laid-back then anything else off the album. The first minute of the track is comprised of Clarke's groovy bass licks and then DiMeola's classic guitar-eqsue solo comes into play. At this point the song is drenched with a heavy influence of blues, until Corea's keyboard melodies make their way into the song. The middle of the track tends to drag on a bit long, the thumping bass and keyboard arpeggios play for a few minutes gradually slowing down the pace. Once you think the song is about to end it picks up again and the climax consists of funky bass slaps mixed in with a bit of DiMeola's rockin' guitar lines.
The middle of the album showcases the title track, a ten minute piece of music that is completely different from the first two songs. At first it looks like the song is going to be a draggy snoozefest simply because it starts out with some gloomy orchestrations that last for about a minute long. The music gradually perks up as Lenny Whites lively drumming accompanies some more of Clarke's jaw dropping bass work. Some Latin influenced guitar licks play frequently and while they stop Corea's glistening piano chords take over. Towards the end of the track every member throws in a little bit of their own spice to create a perky fusion gem.
is the most straightforward rock song off of Romantic Warrior
, it's also the shortest clocking in at only five minutes. This is one of the weaker points on the album, once Corea or Clarke get going the song quickly shifts over to another instrument change or the song slows down or speeds up. Nothing really stands out until the final minute or so, when DiMeola rocks out on his guitar. The Magician
is up next and it’s the most “magical” sounding song off the album. For the most part the kinky keyboard rhythms dominate the song. Sparkling, glistening, and glimmering the bouncy notes create a kinglike sound making it so as if you were in an old, fashionable castle.
The album closes out with the exuberant Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant (Parts I and II)
. The first part of the song consists of Corea and Klugh soloing, and they get the job done sounding both fresh and smooth. The electric keyboard brings funk and electronica onto the scene while DiMeola's guitar brings in elements of classic rock and blues. Part II features every band member soloing and it's tough for me to declare an official winner. You get a mix of some blazing bass work, a scorching guitar solo, some kicking drum skills and to top it off Mr. Corea himself finishes the deal with some spicy keyboard playing.
is a fun, upbeat, and zany record. The album borrows music from genres such as funk, classical, bebop, jazz, and blues. You don't exactly have to be into jazz music to enjoy this album simply because the musicianship and instrument playing is rich and energetic. There are enough funky grooves and melodies to keep you guessing and the majestic atmosphere of the music will hold your attention. While I can't say that Romantic Warrior
is an essential jazz fusion record I can say that it features four extremely talented musicians that create a sound which will appeal to many casual and hardcore music fans.