In 1976, jazz fusion was flying high as one of the most exciting new genres to cross over into the mainstream. Combining the precision of progressive rock, the free, improvisational spirit of jazz, and a healthy dose of psychedelic rock, the genre blew up over the course of the 70s, with stars like Miles DavisHerbie HancockJaco Pastorius, and Pat Matheny crossing over from jazz into the new genre to gain a newfound success. Of course, Jazz fusion is synonymous with Chick Corea and Return To Forever, a band that would be on the Mount Rushmore of jazz fusion with groups like the Headhunters and Weather Report.

Return To Forever went through several lineup changes after forming in 1972, before Corea struck gold in 1974, as he combined Lenny White‘s tight drumming, Stanley Clarke‘s virtuosic bass playing, and a young Al Di Meola‘s electrifying abilities on the guitar with his incredible synthesizer skills. The band only existed for a short two-year period before Corea replaced Di Meola and White with other musicians, and RTF would continue with varying lineups throughout the 70s and 80s, but the band’s best years came came during Di Meola and White’s era in the band. 1974’s Where Have I Known You Before contained awesome tracks like “Vulcan Worlds” and “Beyond the Seventh Galaxy”, 1975’s No Mystery had the funky “Dayride” and “Sofisifunk”.

However, it was 1976’s Romantic Warrior that featured the band at its absolute best, with all six tracks logging in as classics. The album opened with the multi-section masterpiece of “Medievel Overture”, before moving into Lenny White’s masterpiece melodic masterpiece “Sorceress”. “Romantic Warrior” featured the band on acoustic instruments (as opposed to their electric counterparts), but still showcases the band’s precise and progressive arrangements. Stanley Clarke’s psychedelic freak out, “The Magician”, followed, before the eleven-minute masterpiece “Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant”, which closed out the album. It’s a remarkable record, which still remains one of the most well-received and important jazz records of the fusion era.

With that in mind, take a look at the premier Return To Forever lineup performing Romantic Warrior live in its entirety. The band stopped by the BBC2 music show The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1976 during their tour in support of the album, and just before Corea would kick White and Di Meola out of the band. The performance is simply incredible, and will leave you in awe as you see the raw improvisational prowess of one of the best jazz bands of all time.

Watch Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, & Al Di Meola, aka Return To Forver, playing their classic album “Romantic Warrior”