John Fraim

When one of your true heros leaves this earth, it takes something out of you. I haven’t felt this way about the passing of an artist than since McCoy Tyner passed away in mid-March of 2020. Right at the beginning of the great Covid invasision of America. Now, Chick Corea has passed away.

His music was such an important part of my arrival in San Francisco after growing up and going to college and law school in Los Angeles. The discovery of Chick Corea was the discovery of jazz again, in a new way, for me. Corea’s Return to Forever group always followed me around those first years in San Francisco in the mid-70s.

Return to Forever was an American jazz fusion band founded by Chick Corea in 1971.  One of the core groups of the jazz-fusion movement of the 1970s. Several musicians, including Stanley Clarke, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Al Di Meola,  came to prominence through their performances on Return to Forever albums.

After playing on Miles Davis’ jazz-fusion albums In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970), Corea formed an avant-garde jazz band called Circle with Dave Holland, Anthory Braxton and Barry Altschul.  In 1972, after becoming a member of scientology, Corea decided he wanted to communicate better with the audience. This meant performing a more accessible style of music than avant-garde jazz.  

My favorite jazz album of the mid to late 70s was Corea’s Return to Forever album by simultaneously functioning as the debut album of the Return to Forever group. The album was not released in the USA until 1975. The record is often considered one of the classic albums in electric jazz. This album features the debut of electronic instruments for Corea’s solo career.

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The album is so tied to my first years in San Francisco and living on the second floor of an apartment on Mountain Lake in San Francisco. Each week I commuted downtown to my work for one of the largest corporations in the world. I didn’t like working for a big corporation. In fact, hated it.

The weekends became more and more important to me. Little time pieces of sanity and hope in the sea of work I felt little interest in. On the weekends, I would listen a lot to Return to Forever. Not that I didn’t listen to them during the work weeks. But on the weekends, I would surround my life with the music of Chick Corea and Return to Forever.

Sometimes, listening to his music and watching the fog roll in over Mountain Lake. I watched the view outside the window towards the lake. The music of Chick Corea playing on my KLH stereo system and two speakers. In the end I’m sure in some way, helping me see new possibilities ahead in my life. Escape routes from life in the big corporation. Ways back to oneself, you could say. Thanks Chick.

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