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© R P 20
T A S 08

© T A S2 0
R P 08

26-39 Lenny


4:12 PM

Page 25

Summer 2008


26-39 Lenny


5:36 PM

Page 26




n the basement of his New Jersey home, located just minutes from
Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge, Lenny White is
showing off his bicep.“Feel this,” he says, making a fist and flexing
his left arm. It is rock hard and bulging, like Schwarzenegger circa his
Pumping Iron days. Not bad for a guy who is closing in on 60 (he’ll be
59 on December 19 of this year). “Now feel this,” he says, offering his right
bicep for inspection. It is half the size with none of the musculature of that

mighty left bicep. “Rotary cuff surgery,” heexplains. “I had orthoscopic back on September 20. They didn’t replace the shoulder; they just went in there and cleaned it
out. All the muscles in my right shoulder
atrophied and I’ve been trying to build it
back up for the last four months. I had
nothing … zero, man. I couldn’t play for 30
seconds on a pad it was so bad. And so I’ve
been getting it back gradually.”
The shoulder injury,however, didn’t
prevent White from flying to Los Angeles
the previous week to participate in rehearsals and a group photo session in
preparation for the much-anticipated Return To Forever reunion tour (June 1–August 10 in the United States and Europe).
And his RTF bandmates – Chick Corea,
Stanley Clarke, and Al Di Meola – barely
noticed any difference in his playing. “I
hadn’t played in fourmonths,” he explains. “My first playing since the surgery
was when I went out to L.A. and did the
thing with Return To Forever. But it was
like riding a bike, man. And it was great
just to go and play that music again. Just to
get an opportunity to reinvestigate something that you did before – that’s exciting.”
At the time of this interview, White still
had a few more months of physicalther-

apy before embarking on a whirlwind
2008 summer tour with Return To Forever. Given the demanding nature of those
pulse-quickening, chops-busting RTF
scores from the ’70s, he’ll need to be in
peak condition to cut all the intricate, stoptime unison lines and intense, precision
fills around the kit that defined the band
(and a genre) more than 30 years ago.
For fusion fans, the prospectof Return
To Forever getting back together again
after all these years (the group disbanded in 1976) is akin to a Beatles reunion, and for the past few decades
seemed about as unlikely. Corea was the
lone holdout in recent years. While
Clarke, Di Meola, and White had been
lobbying for an RTF reunion, the three
were unable to persuade Corea to take
up the cause, until now. “I think thereare a lot of reasons why it got resolved,”
reflects White. “You know, iron wears
out ... eventually. And I think it just got
to a point where Chick realized, ‘Hey,
man, why not?’”
While the individual members had
been busy carrying on with their own respective bands and undertaking various
creative projects on the side, White
RTF rehearsal
circa 1974



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4:12 PM

Page 27

sensed a Return To Forever reunion
might have larger implications than just
four brilliant virtuosos getting back together to play “Hymn Of The Seventh
Galaxy,” “Song To The Pharaoh Kings,”
and “The Romantic Warrior” once again.
“It seemed like the right time for this,”
says the lefty drummer. “I think the circumstances now warrantfor something
to happen, an event that would hopefully
galvanize the creative end of improvised
music again on a grand scale. And this
Return To Forever reunion could be that
event. The synergy of these four guys getting back together and doing it, I think,
can really make a spark and cause people
to say, ‘Wow, maybe it’s cool to play this
music again. Let’s do this!’”
With the...