The Definitive Chick Corea on Stretch and Concord
Stretch Records, Concord Records
After the hard ground of dissonance and minor chords were plowed by the Chet Baker’s and Thelonious Monk’s, a second wave of settlers entered the Land of Jazz, and artists like Chick Corea took the ideas that were once avant-garde and harsh to the ear and pushed them even farther, but this time with a listening public that had been trained by his forbearers. Over Corea’s half century career he has created, refined, and explored, resurfacing the face of American jazz. This amazing collection from his many sessions provides a thumbnail of not only his career, but the pulse of the only purely American musical style in the last half of the twentieth century.
Disc one opens with “Tap Step,” reminding me of Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz soundtrack, and “Quartet No. 1” reviews the mid ’50s sound, planting it squarely in 1980s. By “Windows,” a sprightly marimba adds a Polynesian feel, and “Dreamless” heads toward a smoother style that we associate with late night jams in elegant clubs. “Wigwam” experiments, “Spain” seduces, and “It Could Happen To You” just might.
Disc two emphasizes Corea’s live performances; these include “Blue Monk,” where he jams with Bobby McFerrin and his scat style. “North Africa” synthesizes a reedy guitar with indigenous rhythm instruments, and “Fool on the Hill” threatens to reveal a melody you recall from a Beatles song. All sound well, all mix a relaxed precision with surprises, rewards, and allow either a jovial conversation or a deeply introspective debate. And like all good jazz recordings, there’s a library of documentary information and liner notes here — each song gets short paragraph in the booklet listing the accompany musicians, the time and place of the performance, and a short sentence or two to start the discussion points. Solid music, solid reproduction, and solid information — this is why I still love to have physical CDs on a shelf. You can’t glance at a hard drive and pick an old favorite.
Concord Music Group: www.concordmusicgroup.com