Guitarist Al DiMeola Longs for Return to Forever Days

Fourteen years after the breakup of Return to Forever, guitarist Al DiMeola still misses being a member of the seminal electric jazz band led by Chick Corea. DiMeola, in fact, still harbors hopes of a reunion with former band mates Corea, the piano and keyboard player, drummer Lenny White and bassist Stanley Clarke.

“It was the most ridiculous thing for Chick to ever break up the group,” said DiMeola, who plays the Bacchanal at 8:30 Monday. “I have expressed this to Chick, and I know Stanley and Lenny feel strongly, too. I’ve met with Chick, and Stanley’s met with him. We’ve tried to talk sense into him, but I think we have a Scientology problem to deal with, possibly due to Stanley leaving Scientology. That doesn’t sit very well with Chick.”

Corea is an acknowledged devotee of the self-improvement movement founded by the late L. Ron Hubbard. When Clarke gave up Scientology, Corea broke up the group after the “Romantic Warrior” album.

“We had signed a multimillion-dollar deal with CBS, but Chick decided to go in a different direction,” DiMeola said.


His disappointment is understandable. He hasn’t recorded on his own since the 1987 album “Tirami Su.”

“It’s very strange. I’ve talked to labels like GRP, and I haven’t gotten a response at all. Which is bizarre. All I can tell you is that the majority of what I’ve heard coming from that label is extremely boring. I have a demo worth of material which is as strong or stronger than anything I’ve ever done, and I’ve sold close to 5 million records. I’m right up there with some of the best-selling jazz artists around--worldwide.”

DiMeola is playing San Diego with his World Sinfonia, a quartet also including classical guitarist Chris Carrington and percussionists Arto Tuncboyaci and Gumbi Ortiz.

“I heard Chris 10 years ago at a club in Dallas, and I always had it in mind to do something with him. The magic in this particular group is the spontaneity. We leave lots of room for improvisation, and we have a real good rapport, especially with the percussionists.”

The songs are mostly DiMeola’s, but the group also tackles DiMeola’s arrangements of other pieces.

In November, DiMeola plans to hit the road with a new electric band. The group will hone material for an album he hopes to record by year’s end.

The flip side of DiMeola is guitarist Larry Carlton, who has a seven-album deal with GRP. Carlton’s career spans more than 20 years of solo projects and prodigious studio work with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt, mostly during the early ‘70s. And of course there was his tenure with The Crusaders, the funky jazz band, from 1971 to 1977.

Carlton’s album “Collection,” released this year, is a compilation of 20 years of his music, including such signature tunes as “Nite Crawler” and “Minute by Minute.” He said he plans to play many of his light-jazz radio hits in San Diego next Wednesday night during shows at 6 and 8:30.


Guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan, whose patented “tapping” technique wows listeners, will share the bill. By tapping the strings with the fingers of both hands, an effect which almost makes the guitar a keyboard instrument, Jordan gets a symphonic sound which seems impossible from a single human being.

The concert will be a homecoming for San Diego saxophonist Hollis Gentry, who left his local band Neon to join Carlton’s band last year.

Flutists have seldom made it big as leaders, but Dave Valentin seems a rare exception to the rule.

‘If you look back historically at flute players, you’ll find Eric Dolphy, James Moody, Yusef Lateef, Hubert Laws and Herbie Mann, not necessarily in that order. Many, like Moody and Dolphy, doubled on saxophones. But I think Herbie Mann was able to make the flute a legitimate lead instrument.


“Naturally, I’m an aggressive player. But I would like to show the public that the flute has a whole texture of colors and sounds.”

Valentin and his group stop at Elario’s Monday and Tuesday nights for shows at 8:30 and 10:30 as part of a West Coast tour. After all this talk about GRP, it’s worth noting that Valentin was the first artist signed to the label 11 years ago.

Last week marked the start of the U.S. Grant Hotel’s push to become a hot social spot for downtowners. The effort includes frequent jazz as part of a new entertainment program in the Grant Lounge. Friday nights from 5 to 9 this month, Tobacco Road plays “vintage jazz.” Mondays, same hours, it’s South Market Street, and Tuesday nights, the a cappella trio Pieces, from 5 to 7.

RIFFS: Pianist Kenny Barron, a masterful technician whose bright, inventive style has been called “coruscating,” opened two weeks at Elario’s last night. . . .


The Kingston Hotel (1055 1st Ave.) continues its series of Thursday night jazz concerts through August with 8-to-midnight performances by Tobacco Road plus different special guests each week . . . .

Singer Anita O’Day is the star of KPBS-TV’s “Club Date” program airing Saturday night at 11, repeating Monday night at 11:30. . . .

Coast Highway plays jazz outdoors in Carlsbad’s Magee Park (Carlsbad Boulevard and Beech Street) Friday night from 6 to 8. . . .

Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham appear for twilight jazz at Del Mar’s Powerhouse Park, across from the train station at 7 p.m. Monday.