Last February, on an unseasonably warm winter night in Los Angeles, something special took place in a large building at the fringe area between Hollywood and Los Feliz. On the second floor, in a studio big enough to house a 60-piece orchestra, four musicians were busily working their way through a rehearsal. Stopping and starting, redoing difficult passages, cracking jokes-it could have been any one of the many thousands of rehearsals taking place at that moment across the country.
But this one was different. The building was the Mad Hatter Studio, once owned by Chick Corea, sold by him in 2003 to the Church of Scientology. The players, positioned in a circle in the center of the large, equipment-cluttered space were Corea, happily seated behind his Fender Rhodes and Minimoog keyboards, occasionally turning to a nearby concert grand; Stanley Clarke, his fingers whipping across the strings of his upright bass; Al Di Meola, intently digging into the plangent sounds of his electric guitar; and Lenny White, constantly making eye contact with the others, generating a loose, loping, forward drive.