Chick Corea ‘The continents concert for jazz quintet and chamber orchestra’ 2CD Deutsche Grammaphon

Keyboardist extraordinaire Chick Corea has been involved in numerous individual and collective projects in recent years and at present he is in particularly prolific in output. One of his most endearing collaborations has been with his long-term quintet and on this recording we have the opportunity to hear Corea alongside this formation, on its own in an after hours jam-style setting, together with a chamber orchestra and finally Corea playing solo piano. The first CD is devoted entirely to the second of these line-ups and a newly composed suite of pieces divided up according to the different continents that make up the planet earth. This works surprisingly well since the quintet are in general allowed free reign to improvise and take extended solos while parts of the orchestra are used selectively (and their members have bene handpicked from the Harlem String Quartet and the Imani Winds) to emphasize either brass, or strings, but are never intrusive and rather compliment the jazz musicians. Best of all are the suites focused on Africa and America. The former is predictably percussive with fine polyrhythms from drummer Marcus Gilmore, strong bass lines from Hans Glawischnig and soloing from Corea himself that recalls the big band formations of McCoy Tyner. On the latter piece the quintet comes more into its own on a multi-layered composition that begins like a waltz and throughout features some deeply melodic soprano saxophone from Tim Garland and fine trombone soloing from Steve Davis. The quintet only side covers the first part of the second CD and here mainly standards are tackled. On Kenny Dorham’s classic ‘Blue bossa’ a relaxed groove permeates proceedings while on Strayhorn’s ‘Lotus blossom’ an Eastern minor theme with bop inflections can be heard. Only on final part of the album and more abstract piano soloing of Corea which is not on a par with the early career ‘Piano improvisations volumes one and two’ that came out on ECM does the recording disappoint in any way and even these are quite enjoyable taken in isolation.

Tim Stenhouse