Chick Corea Plays – Concord Jazz 

by | Oct 11, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Chick Corea Plays – Concord Jazz CJA00287 – 180-gram stereo triple vinyl and a 2-CD set, 110:51 *****: 

(Chick Corea – piano; with special guests Yaron Herman – piano; Charles Heisser – piano)

Over the course of 50 years, jazz pianist Chick Corea has established a unique legacy of musical expression. Whether it’s pioneering jazz fusion, collaborating on classical projects or exploring varied jazz ensembles, his unfaltering vision and technical acuity is prevalent. He has garnered a staggering 60 Grammy nominations and 23 awards. An integral component to Corea’s recording and performing catalogue is his awareness of historical perspective and appreciation of different genres. 

Concord Jazz has released a live triple vinyl album (also available on 2-CDs), Chick Corea Plays. Like many artists, Corea utilizes solo piano as a continual vehicle of self-discovery. Here, the jazz master incorporates a stellar group of classical (Mozart, Chopin, Scarlatti, Scriabin), jazz (Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim), soul (Stevie Wonder) and even Broadway (Jerome Kern) composers with original material in a glorious performance. He begins with a pair of renowned compositions. On the adagio from Mozart’s “Piano Sonata in F”, he articulates the inherent harmonics and precision of the movement, but injects some improvisational energy with his uncanny improvisational skills. His technique is flawless and captures the spirit of Mozart with descending chords, and exacting notation that includes trilling. He segues immediately into Gershwin’s unforgettable “Someone To Watch Over Me”. Jazz performers have covered Gershwin for nearly 90 years. The composer provided a discerning bridge from popular songwriting to jazz. Corea’s version starts with familiar melancholic imagery, but intensifies the arrangement with tempo modulations and grandiose flourishes. There is a pulsating resonance and complicated phrasing that reinvent this American standard.

Chick Corea Plays 3 LP, Album CoverThe next pairing is Scarlatti and Jerome Kern. Corea improvises the former and stylistically interprets the pastoral “Sonata In D Minor”. A seamless transition to Kern’s Broadway standard “Yesterdays” showcases genre-merging mastery and emotional depth. A highlight is the Bill Evans/Antonio Carlos Jobim segment. He chooses two very recognizable songs (“Waltz For Debby” and “Desafinado”). His feel for Evans’ complex material is palpable as he surrounds the piece in muscular left hand base lines and rhythmic atmospherics. Jobim’s Brazilian-jazz opus is unconventionally spirited and played with urgency. Corea’s graceful elegance is on display in preludes by Chopin (OP. 28 #4) and Scriabin (OP. II Part I). He embodies the plaintive emotion in each number. The first-half concert finishes with the Thelonious Monk trilogy. “Pannonica” has that unique Monk timing and soulful bounce. After a furious bebop cover of “Trinkle Tinkle”, Chick slides into the bluesy grooves of “Blue Monk. It is a worthy tribute.

The second part of the concert is equally compelling. His cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” is musically uplifting with infectious classical accents . Corea’s  hypnotic pulse and soaring crescendos frame his inspirational nod to guitarist Paco De Lucia. It is the longest track on the album (9:32), and delivers a jazzy swagger to flamenco. The unique cadence and dramatic accents are ear-catching. The concise portraits (“Henrietta”, “Chris”) are performed in the context of his musical family.  After two duets (another crucial element to Corea’s recording gravitas), he ends with eight of his Children’s Songs. These are simpler compositions that are executed with increasingly demanding time signatures and moods. Contrasting rhythms and spirituality are a vital element to these gems. It is a satisfying conclusion to an amazing performance. The variety of piano tones abound.

Chick Corea Plays is a formidable addition to the legendary Concord Jazz label. The vinyl pressing is superior with negligible surface noise. The mics on the piano are situated adroitly and piano tonality is vibrantly produced. A two-CD set is also excellent.

Disc One/Side A: 
Chick Talks Mozart And Gershwin; Mozart: Piano Sonata In F KV332 (2nd Part-Adagio); Someone To Watch Over Me; Improvisation On Scarlatti; Scarlatti: Sonata In D Minor K9, L413 Allegro 

Disc One/Side B: 
Yesterdays; Chick Talks Bill Evans And Antonio Carlos Jobim; Waltz For Debby; Desafinado

Disc Two/Side C: 
Chopin Prelude OP. 28 #4; Scriabin: Prelude OP. II (Part 1); Chick Talks Monk; Pannonica; Trinkle Tinkle; Blue Monk

Disc Two/Side D: 
Pastime Paradise; Chick Talks Paco; The Yellow Nimbus; Chick Talks Portraits; Portraits: Henrietta; Portrait: Chris

Disc Three/Side E: 
Chick Talks Duets; Duet: Yaron; Duet Charles; Chick Talks Children’s Songs; Children’s Song No. 1; Children’s Song No. 3; Children’s Song No. 4; Children’s Song No. 9

Disc Three/Side F: 
Children’s Song No. 10; Children’s Song No. 15; Children’s Song No. 17; Children’s Song No. 12  

—Robbie Gerson

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