Gary Burton & Pat Metheny: Sea Journey

"Sea Journey" has long been one of my favorite Chick Corea composition—built on a stormy minor key vamp set off against sweet descending harmonies in the bridge. Yet it is not often covered, despite its canonic inclusion in The Real Book and its "ease of use" for gigs and jams. For their June 2007 engagement at Yoshi's, this all-star reunion band drew heavily on these old semi-standards; this meeting of mature musical minds was about spontaneity and revisiting familiar ground from the past, rather than trailblazing into the future. But the solos are solid, especially Metheny's contribution. To my mind, he is one of the best pure improvisers in the business. His lines always make perfect musical sense, drawing from what he hears rather than (as with many guitarists) the licks that are under his fingers. This is a solo worth memorizing and singing along with the CD (or playing along if you're a musician). The Peter Max cover art is too hip by half, and may turn off some potential buyers of this disk—fearful that this is a "groovy" trip down memory lane. Don't be fooled. This is "no frills" jazz played at a very high level.

May 31, 2009 · 1 comment


Joe Farrell: Song of the Wind

The rest of the ensemble used on Joe Farrell Quartet, which included John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, sat on the sidelines for this sublime Chick Corea and Joe Farrell duet treatment of Corea's "Song of the Wind." Corea's melody is a tender trip. His lush piano playing is laden with lullaby-like arpeggios that evoke the more introspective moments of childhood wonder. Farrell plays a superb soprano saxophone that continually circles Corea's thoughts. The tune's midsection devolves into some brief free jazz tastefully expressed. Upon a return to normalcy, Farrell is now on flute. The two musicians enjoy an empathic interplay that reeks of telepathy. Farrell returns to saxophone to resolve the piece. "Song of the Wind" is a wonderful performance worthy of being the title cut of any great jazz album. In fact, four years later in a strange marketing move, Joe Farrell Quartet was reissued by CTI under the new name Song of the Wind.

March 17, 2009 · 0 comments


Mahavishnu John McLaughlin: Waltz for Bill Evans

My Goal's Beyond marked the first album by guitarist John McLaughlin in which he used the Mahavishnu name given to him by Guru Sri Chinmoy. The recording also featured, among others, future Mahavishnu Orchestra bandmates drummer Billy Cobham and violinist Jerry Goodman. But half the album featured John McLaughlin alone.

The Chick Corea-penned "Waltz for Bill Evans" is presented beautifully. A showcase for McLaughlin's mastery of guitar dynamics, it is also the album's most jazz-based performance, given its lush chords, rolling arpeggios, harmonics and tasteful runs that clearly come from the jazz idiom. McLaughlin's phenomenal timekeeping creates the patient textures that make up the fabric of the song. Short of what would become McLaughlin's inimitable playing style, there is nothing here that would indicate any connection to jazz-rock fusion. McLaughlin has played plenty of such tunes, actually. But for some reason they tend to be overlooked by detractors because of his more dramatic music. My Goal's Beyond is an album that all guitarists should hear.

March 12, 2009 · 0 comments


Lynne Arriale: Tones For Joan's Bones

Since she won the 1993 International Jazz Piano Competition, Lynne Arriale's recordings have consistently impressed due to her versatile style, as well as by their diverse repertoires and imaginative arrangements. On Inspiration alone, her tight trio interprets tunes by Bernstein, Ellington, Lennon/McCartney, Bacharach, Jarrett, Corea, Carmichael, and Ibrahim. According to our invaluable Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians, this CD was named among the top six jazz CDs of 2002 by The New Yorker magazine.

Arriale approaches Chick Corea's "Tones for Joan's Bones" with the same zest as its composer, while not sounding particularly like him. She begins reflectively, with gratifying commentary by both Anderson and Davis, and only a few more vigorous piano chords hint at what is to come. When Arriale accelerates the tempo, the trio takes off in lock step. The pianist's phrases ring out with much emotion and urgency, and her technically gifted attack can only be described as controlled spontaneity. Anderson follows with a lyrical solo played with a pulsating tone. Davis's concise drum spot exhibits his refined methodology. The swirling energy of the out chorus, after Arriale's theme restatement, unfortunately evolves into a fadeout. This performance overall is closer in spirit and execution to Bill Evans than to Chick Corea, but exudes the fresh inventiveness that Arriale brings to all her efforts.

September 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Stan Getz: Windows

Sweet Rain was Stan Getz's first significant release following his bossa nova period, and the first of his two classic encounters with Chick Corea, the second being Captain Marvel in 1972. (Verve has just put out a newly remastered edition of Sweet Rain.) Corea had previously recorded "Windows" on a Hubert Laws date, and was to record it again a year later in a trio with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, but the version with Getz is definitive. Getz was simply unbeatable on a lyrical piece such as this.

Getz glides through the melody with his sultry tone, but hardens it considerably for some guttural outbursts, his emotional reading even eliciting an uncharacteristic flub or squeak that might have prompted another take if this one was not so outstanding. His solo offers a wonderful panorama of enticing thematic embellishments and urgent, undulating runs, all somewhat remindful of his playing on the 1961 Focus album. Corea's accompaniment is forceful yet sensitive, and Tate's crisp accents are both polished and tasteful. The pianist's improv is played with a ringing sound, and impresses with its harmonically advanced voicings and fresh rhythmic nuances. Getz storms back in for a final heated say before once again endearingly presenting the theme, augmented by some additional passionate asides. His tenor winds down on a burnished, drawn-out lower-register note, to which Corea responds in kind with a tender punctuation of his own.

September 16, 2008 · 0 comments


Gene Bertoncini: Concierto de Aranjuez / Spain

Gene Bertoncini is best described as an elegant player. The fine veteran guitarist brings a gentle style to his playing that often understates his virtuosity. On this cut he plays with a string quartet and the masterful acoustic bass of David Finck, showing the bridge that can exist between classical and jazz when explored by willing and able artists. To this end, he is only partially successful.

The idea to do a medley of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" and Chick Corea's "Spain" was one that fascinated me. Bertoncini demonstrates an intuitive feel for the inherent sensibilities of these disparate yet similarly inspired works. The string ensemble feels very comfortable in the classical mode and Bertoncini seems equally at home in this sensitive but deliberate setting, where he plays in an accomplished classical Spanish guitar motif. When the song switches abruptly to the "Spain" portion of the medley, Bertoncini and David Finck lead the way for the other strings punctuated by a rousing pizzicato bass solo that is free to be adventurous, especially in its aggressive tone, and pushes the pulse of the tune. Bertoncini comps with soft chords behind Finck's plucky bass until he starts his own solo, which he plays with a lightness and delicacy that is draped in the silky finery of his approach. The strings demonstrate their own unified voice in a tension-building arco chorus that just doesn't cut it for me and yields to an inappropriately sweet violin solo before Bertoncini returns it to the Corea melody line and then back again to the Rodrigo finale, tying the two melodies together for one last time. Clearly an ambitious undertaking that despite its shortcomings makes clear that both Bertoncini and Finck are adept enough to straddle the worlds of classical and jazz comfortably.

June 02, 2008 · 0 comments


Michel Camilo & Tomatito: Spain

Chick Corea's hit tune played by a Spanish flamenco guitarist and a piano virtuoso from the Dominican Republic, how can this sound? The theme itself is so thickly written that it actually leaves little room for the two musicians to show anything else than their sound and technique. You have to wait until Tomatito takes a solo to hear some feeling and emotion, both in the slow passages and in the purely virtuosic moments. Camilo, for his part, tends to overplay and doesn't bring much to the original song, while the guitarist adds a subtle personal touch even when he plays arpeggios or chords behind his overwhelming partner.

March 16, 2008 · 0 comments


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