Chick Corea ‘The Musician’ 3CD (Concord/Universal) 4/5

Celebrating the musical career of Chick Corea, this wide-ranging release features the musician in a variety of settings with multiple musical collaborators and should be viewed very much as a summation of the myriad influences Chick Corea has incorporated to date. They are new and live recordings, but clearly hark back to different periods in his illustrious career and form part of a wider world tour that he undertook.

Corea first came to wider attention via his tenure with Miles Davis and this sideman period is commemorated via a trio plus trumpet (Wallace Roney) rendition of, ‘If I were a bell’, which Miles actually recorded back in the 1950s whereas Corea will be forever associated with the late 1960s fusion era of Miles’ numerous incarnations. The piece has something of a floating waltz feel. The leader engages in a restrained solo on a Miles self-penned composition, ‘Nefertiti’, with the likes of Jack DeJohnette and Eddie Gomez in attendance.

One really interesting new line-up is that of the Five Peace Band comprising John McLaughlin on guitar, Kenny garret on alto saxophone, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Collectively, they are on fire on, ‘Spirit rides’, with guitarist and saxophonist trading intricate licks, and with a shifting rhythm pattern from Blade making the experience all the more memorable.

A particular favourite of this writer has been the flamenco-jazz fusion collaborations that Corea has entered into and on the Spanish leg of the world tour, Corea enlisted some heavyweight musicians with whom to perform. They included Jorge Pardo on flute, Carles Benavent on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums and Nio Josele on flamenco guitar. A Paco de Lucia original, ‘Zyryab’, receives a fiery interpretation with handclaps and an emotional and inspirational duet between Corea and Pardo, the former revelling in some delightful Latin piano vamps. Singer Concha Buika contributes on, ‘Mi Niña Lola!’ which is an intimate, yet nonetheless uplifting number with guitar in a largely supportive role, and a tasty flute solo from Pardo. This reviewer for one would liked to have heard a whole concert worth of this king of music.

In the early 1970s Chick Corea recorded some memorable music with Stan Getz and from the band Return to Forever Unplugged (i.e. an acoustic version of that band), we hear a lovely reading of, ‘Captain Marvel’, with Stanley Clarke on bass, Lenny White on drums and Frank Gambale on guitar. Building on this, the group then perform a mid-tempo version of, ‘Light as a feather’, that gains in intensity, with the melodic support of Gambale especially attractive.

Piano duets were not at all fashionable in the late 1970s, but this is precisely what Chick Corea worked on together on a stunning double album and this is fondly remembered on two Hancock compositions, a gentle interpretation of, ‘Dolphin dance’, and, ‘Cantaloupe island’. Elsewhere, Corea duets with Bobby Mcferrin. Only the Elektric Band reunion sounds a tad dated. The re-working of the jazz standard, ‘Caravan’, works a treat with a most delicate delivery, but no indications of with whom Corea is collaborating here. Chick Corea is now rightly featured in the Downbeat jazz hall of fame and this highly attractive overview provides answers as to why he is so loved and revered.

[Note: A separate blu-ray edition is available]

Tim Stenhouse