When Return to Forever disbanded in 1977 after going through four lineup configurations, the quartet's core members went on to develop stellar, fruitful careers. Al Di Meola experimented with an acoustic trio alongside Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin, among many other projects. Stanley Clarke continued to revolutionize the bass guitar as a lead instrument while writing scores for film and television. Chick Corea continued his journey of musical discovery, incorporating sounds from Brazil, Spain, and Africa into jazz. And drummer Lenny White continued to perform in funk and jazz projects as a leader and a sideman.
More than 30 years on, it's difficult for younger generations to grasp the influence RTF had on modern jazz. While many colleagues were playing gigs in small, smoky clubs, Return to Forever was performing in sold-out arenas, something unheard of for the genre.
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Though Corea might have been the de facto bandleader and songwriter, all the members contributed an essential piece to the group's distinctive identity. The music they created was both captivating and intriguing. For proof, check recently released compilation Return to Forever: The Anthology (Concord), which came out as the band's reunion tour kicked off in Austin this past May. After the tour winds down in 2009, RTF plans to release a live DVD with some reunion highlights. It should be a great memento for those lucky enough to witness one of this year's most memorable musical comebacks.