Lynn Goldsmith, Shorefire Media
Al Di Meola, left, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea and Lenny White of jazz/fusion band Return to Forever.

For the first time in 25 years, the classic lineup of jazz/fusion pioneer band Return to Forever — pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White — are on tour.

Salt Lake City is one of the lucky cities to host this long-awaited tour. But no one has waited as long as Di Meola.

"It seemed like every five years someone — usually me — would approach the guys about a reunion," Di Meola said from New Jersey. "I was the one who kept in touch with everyone.

To make a long story short, they had an offer for a reunion that sounded interesting.

"Ironically, we didn't go with the offer, but we all started talking about getting back together. And I'm glad to say we're all happily making this work," he said.

Return to Forever formed in 1972 with Corea, Clarke, saxophonist Joe Farrell, drummer Airto Moreira and his wife, vocalist Flora Purim.

After a self-titled debut album and a second album, "Light as a Feather," Purim, Moreira and Farrell left and made way for guitarist Bill Connors, drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Mingo Lewis. Gadd and Lewis then left shortly afterward, and the group recruited White to fill in on drums and percussion for the next album, "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy."

By 1974, Connors had left and a 19-year-old Di Meola had joined the band, after Earl Klugh played guitar on the tour the previous year.

Di Meola's recording debut with Return to Forever was "Where Have I Known You Before."

This lineup, the longest-running in the band's career, released two more albums, "No Mystery" and "Romantic Warrior."

In 1977, Corea revamped the lineup, leaving out White and Di Meola. Shortly after the next album, "Musicmagic," Corea disbanded the band.

"We were one of the three pioneering fusion bands at the time," said Di Meola. "It was us, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report."

In 1983, the "No Mystery/Romantic Warrior" lineup reunited briefly but didn't officially get back together until this year.

"It is interesting because so many years have passed since we last played together," Di Meola said. "I'm a different person and play differently. We all do.

"In fact, when we sat and listened to our old albums, there were times when even we, ourselves, couldn't believe some of the things we were physically pulling off.

"There's something to be said about youth and envy."

For the tour, Di Meola said the band isn't going to play any new material. "When people go see a band they love, that they haven't heard live for a while, they want to hear familiar music. And that's what we're doing. We have our listeners' favorites that we will play, and we'll be sure to give some space for us to do our thing."

Twenty-five years is a long time for fans to wait, said Di Meola. "And we know there are high expectations. We know. And we also know that out of the three (aforementioned) jazz/fusion groups, we're the only one that could do a reunion. For the others, it's too late.

"Mahavishnu won't do it because of the personality conflicts, and some of the Weather Report players are no longer with us.

"So we felt now was the time for us."

If you go

What: Return to Forever: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola and Lenny White

Where: Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $35-$85

Phone: 581-7100

Web: www.kingsburyhall.com


E-mail: [email protected]