is at least as important as innovation for its own sake. And they are selling albums while making few apparent compromises to their ideas of what mass tastes dictate.
Return to Forever is built around the interplay between Corea's keyboards and Stanley Clarke's marvelously fluid bass playing. Drummer Lenny White is taking a more active role in the group as composer and mover, while newcomer Al DiMeola's guitar is most effective in an ensemble context. Corea, who continues to provide much of the band's direction, has developed an approach to group playing which combines a jazzlike freedom of interplay with increasingly electronic textures and a more reiterative rhythmic base. Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, RTF's previous LP, was looser, less melodic and more exploratory. Before is a more assured statement, reflecting the band's snowballing popularity and extensive road experience. And, unlike some jazz/rockers, Corea isn't afraid to play solo acoustic piano numbers. The three included here are highlights of an LP which has few weaknesses, much that is melodically memorable, and both improvisational and rhythmic solidity.
Thrust stomps and jerks along irrepressibly, in the tight-in, funky vein that made Head Hunters the first Top Ten progressive jazz LP. Hancock has left plenty of space for his own improvisations and those of his longtime sidekick, saxophonist Bennie Maupin, but the soloists don't forget the overriding rhythmic impetus for an instant. In adopting the unanimous ensemble accentuations and the razor-sharp edge which have traditionally distinguished R&B from jazz, Hancock has gone further than anyone toward creating a harmonically and melodically sophisticated brand of instrumental music that really rocks. In this sense he's more commercially oriented than Corea and he'll probably move more records. If his new bag already shows signs of turning into a formula, it at least provides dancing pleasure without neglecting the jazz lover's thirst for form and substance.
McCoy Tyner's integrity in the face of the jazz/rock onslaught is commendable. It would be merely pedantic if his music didn't possess spiritual power and depth, but happily these qualities are in abundance. Sama Layuca is a stunning combo album, with saxophonist Gary Bartz, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and percussionist Mtume added to the pianist's regular quintet. It's a