Return to Forever drummer Lenny White recognizes Indianapolis as a jazz town, dropping names like Freddie Hubbard and the Montgomery Brothers before a full house at the Murat Theatre Sunday night. While White reminisced with the audience between songs, he compared being part of RtF’s first tour in 25 years to riding a bike. Twenty shows and one month into the tour, the band seems to be quite comfortable on that bike.
The first set, an electric one, was a genre-bending, freeform jazz journey. Chick Corea guided his band on the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Bassist Stanley Clarke set up stylish and sophisticated grooves with Al Di Meola ripping gritty guitar riffs and White on drums. Composed sections sounded just as perfect as studio counterparts with improvisation free but never meandering. The band’s decibel level was matched by the crowd’s cheers at the end of the first set, and judging by the volume, this crowd wanted more.
The second set, an acoustic set dedicated to Miles Davis, was a warmly welcomed departure from RtF’s signature style. Solos were the highlights here. Di Meola’s opening guitar solo captured the audience and enveloped the room with classical and Spanish melodies. The standout moment of this set was Clarke’s solo on the double bass. Clarke created hauntingly beautiful sounds using a bow and broke into a frenzy with his fingertips.
Every song was met with a standing ovation. It was difficult to tell who was enjoying themselves more: the crowd or the band. After the encore, the crowd approached the stage, many shaking hands with the musicians, others receiving autographs.