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RTF IV in Austin, Texas

MOJA’s Russ Davis catches up with the quintet on tour in Austin, Texas

Lenny White performing with Return to Forever IV
Jean-Luc Ponty performing with Return to Forever IV
Stanley Clarke performing with Return to Forever IV
Frank Gambale performing with Return to Forever IV
Russ Davis with Return to Forever IV

Before Tuesday, the 13th of September, 2011 I’d never set foot inside Austin in my life. I’d always heard what a progressive, music-loving and music-making town it was. The South By Southwest Festival and Austin City Limits program bring the focus of the musical world to the state capital of the nation’s largest state and the local scene is by all accounts red hot. Bill Rooney, Chick Corea’s manager and organizer for what has to be THE biggest tour of the year in jazz, contacted me to ask if I’d like to come to Austin to conduct interviews with the members of RTF IV to be included in an upcoming DVD which will chronicle this momentous tour around the world featuring Chick, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale. I took all of 2 seconds to say yes as I was eager to make the trip, not only to see Austin for myself but to see this incredible super-group of Modern Jazz for the third time.

The first thing I noticed was that there’s more than the music scene that’s blazing these days in Austin. As I gazed through the airplane window before landing I thought to myself that this part of the world looked a lot like what I figured Saudi Arabia might look…a completely parched desert! The locals told me the temperature was to reach 107 degrees on the mid-September day and though I would gladly spend most of the day in the air conditioned comfort of Austin interiors I did take a mid-day stroll down the famous 6th Street, home of clubs, bars and shops that make up one of the centers for the Austin music scene. There wasn’t much happening at noon especially on a 107 degree day and I imagined it hopping and filled with revelers and lots of music and frivolity as Austin’s beautiful people wet their collective whistle and take in some tunes. The nighttime is the right time around here especially this time of year. Back inside I was ready to do business with RTF IV.

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Originally Published