Chick Corea

Released September 10, 2014

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2015



Chick Corea – an NEA Jazz Master and winner of 20 GRAMMY® Awards – has been a prime mover in jazz ever since the late 1960s, when the keyboardist was a youngblood in the electrifying jazz-rock ensembles of Miles Davis. Corea has made classic records as a leader both in acoustic mode (such as the star-making Blue Note trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs) and electric (the pioneering ’70s fusion of Return to Forever), as well as collaborating on acclaimed albums with peers from Gary Burton to Béla Fleck. Stretch Records/Concord Jazz will release Trilogy – a recording to rank with the landmarks of Corea’s career. Trilogyis a triple-CD set recorded live around the world with his spectacularly virtuosic trio featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, both star leaders in their own right (and previously the rhythmic backbone in Corea’s Five Peace Band). In an interview with Spain’s El Pais, Corea said about them, “Both are master musicians and together we have an easy rapport. There is a lot of give and take in our music. It’s always a lot of fun.” And reviewing one of the stops on the trio’s two globe-trekking tours, All About Jazz noted, “Corea, ever the mischievous, puckish protagonist, created a context where the music centered on high-spirited playfulness: pushed and pulled, twisted and turned, and obliquely refracted – as much about the journey as it was the destination.”

A marvel of live recorded sound, particularly for having been captured in multiple stops on the road, Trilogy sees the trio reinvent classic Corea compositions (such as “Spain”), as well as previously unreleased originals (“Piano Sonata: The Moon”). The group also performs an array of jazz standards (including two Thelonious Monk tunes) and even re-imagines a Prelude by fin-de-siècle Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (“Op. 11, No. 9”). The recordings were made live in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, CA; in Spain, Switzerland and Austria; and in Slovenia, Turkey and Japan. Corea, McBride and Blade are joined by special guests on three tracks: flutist Jorge Pardo and guitarist Nin?o Josele in Madrid (“My Foolish Heart” and, aptly, “Spain”) and vocalist Gayle Moran Corea, the pianist’s wife and longtime collaborator, in Sapporo (“Someday My Prince Will Come”). About one of the concerts, WUVT Virginia said, “The performance was mostly fun and relaxed, but as expected from Chick Corea, it had its moments of deep thought in which the music could bring tears to one’s eyes.”

Corea calls the trio experience with McBride and Blade “a joyful exploration,” adding, “There’s a certain chemistry that happens, which is really difficult to describe – it’s simply that thing that happens when the three of us get together to play. I know I find myself trying things that I wouldn’t normally try. The game of live performance – for a performer and a listener – is one of the most basic human pleasures. For me, certainly, the best and most rewarding thing I know to do in music is to play live for a live audience. And no matter how recordings and the mass consumption of music evolve, the fundamental musical experience will always be a live performance. A live album like this is the next best thing to being there, a snapshot of special moments in musical time that we can share.”

One of the album’s special moments is the trio’s interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk.” Along with the sheer life-affirming delight of Corea’s piano in this number, it’s the old-wood tone and earthy swing in McBride’s solos that are a particular sensual pleasure. About the bassist, Corea says, “Christian is a complete musician in all senses. With total command of his instrument and a flowing ability to creatively improvise in any situation, he’s able to bring joyful surprises every time.”

Reviewing the trio’s show at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, The New York Times singled out Blade’s contribution as “a crucial factor” to the group’s sound: “Tapping into the deeper currents, Mr. Blade can be startlingly dynamic.” His traps solo on Corea’s vintage composition “Fingerprints” is as rich in color as it is in groove. “Brian is totally unique as a drummer and a highly accomplished musician,” says Corea. “He doesn’t just ‘keep time.’ He colors and comps and orchestrates everything he plays. He transcends the instrument he plays – he’s amazingly artistic.”

In its review of the trio’s concert at Orchestra Hall in the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune singled out Corea’s “feathery touch” in Kurt Weill’s “This Is New,” his “soft tone, free-ranging lines and mercurial rhythms quickly echoed by McBride and Blade. Here were three musicians discarding conventional notions of phrase and song structure, of solo and ensemble passages. Instead, they created a free-flowing, translucent music that thickened or thinned, sped up or slowed down according to the impulse of the moment.” The Tribune also highlighted the trio’s re-envisioning of Scriabin: “The Russian iconoclast’s extended harmonies and mystical yearnings are ripe for jazz improvisation. Corea proved the point, riffing on Scriabin with fleet and silvery lines, the pianist’s nervous energy intensified by McBride’s restless phrases on bass and Blade’s shimmering statements on drums. In effect, Corea’s trio got under the skin of music penned on another continent roughly a century earlier – through jazz.”

Corea has always had a special feel for Spanish music, tapping the spirit of Rodrigo for his classic “Spain,” among many other of his pieces that explore Iberian colors and rhythms. Corea recalls the performance of “Spain” included on Trilogy: “The night in Madrid with Jorge Pardo and Niño Josele was magical. It was our final trio concert of that particular tour – and, of course, Jorge and Niño are stars in Spain. You can feel the audience and band’s excited vibe on the recording.” The new piece “Homage” is another in that line, a tribute to the late flamenco guitar genius Paco de Lucía. Corea explains, “This is my homage to flamenco musical roots and culture – so warmly shown to me by the great Paco de Lucía along with Carles Benavent, Jorge Pardo and Rubem Dantas, all of whom were integral members of Paco’s bands for two decades. ‘Homage’ is my tip of the hat and thank you to him and the beauty of this musical culture.” ?

The previously unrecorded “Piano Sonata: Moon” is the most expansive performance on Trilogy, at an epic half an hour. It’s kaleidoscopic and utterly absorbing music. “This is the first movement of a piano sonata that I began composing several years ago but never completed,” says Corea. “I thought it would be ideal to expand it in this trio setting since Christian and Brian are so adept at reading and interpreting tricky scores. We spent time weaving together the written sections with the improvised sections.”

Trilogy also features interpretations of items from the Great American Songbook: “My Foolish Heart,” “It Could Happen to You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and more, all performances of grace and freshness. The album closes with “Someday My Prince Will Come,” with its guest vocal. Corea says, “My sweet wife, Gayle, always brings the kind of warmth and lyricism to the stage that I love.”

Much of the pleasure in Trilogy is the sheer beauty of the recorded sound, always a challenge to achieve on the road with varying acoustics and equipment. The gorgeous result – full of high-definition depth and detail – is the product of “the deep understanding and artistry of my recording engineer, Bernie Kirsh, who is a genius and with whom I have collaborated since 1975, when we made The Leprechaun together. The techniques that he developed through the years plus the rapport we both have for the kind and quality of sound we love led to the very highest quality live recordings. Brian Vibberts did a great job of mixing on this one, with my and Bernie’s long-distance input. I think we made for a good three-way team.” Summing up Trilogy, Corea says, “I’ve made a life of learning and inventing ways to make music, but it often seems unproductive for me to try to describe it in words. But I have one about working with this trio and making this live album: pleasure. I hope listeners experience the same.”

Track Listing:

1. You’re My Everything (Mort Dixon / Harry Warren / Joseph Young) 12:00

2. Recorda Me (Joe Henderson) 7:29

3. The Song Is You (Oscar Hammerstein II / Jerome Kern) 13:55

4. Work (Thelonious Monk) 5:14

5. My Foolish Heart (Ned Washington / Victor Young) 9:20

6. Fingerprints (Chick Corea) 10:22

(Chick Corea, Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo 2015)

7. Spain (Chick Corea) 18:29

Disc 2

1. This Is New (Ira Gershwin / Kurt Weill) 12:42

2. Alice in Wonderland (Sammy Fain / Bob Hilliard) 9:04

3. It Could Happen to You (Johnny Burke / James Van Heusen) 12:00

4. Blue Monk (Thelonious Monk) 10:01

5. Armando’s Rhumba (Chick Corea) 9:13

6. Op. 11, No. 9 (Alexander Scriabin) 10:43

7. How Deep Is the Ocean? (Irving Berlin) 13:48

Disc 3

1. Homage (Chick Corea) 10:02

2. Piano Sonata: The Moon (Chick Corea) 29:58

3. Someday My Prince Will Come (Frank Churchill / Larry Morey) 10:22


Dave Holland: double-bass

Chick Corea: piano

Christian McBride: bass

Brian Blade: drums

Jorge Pardo: flute (Disc 1 – 4, 6)

Niño Josele: guitar (Disc 1 – 4, 6)

Gayle Moran: vocals (Disc 3 – 3)

Recorded 2010 – 2012, live in Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Turkey, and Japan

Mastered by Bernie Grundman

Mixed by Bernie Kirsh, Brian Vibberts


Remember when CDs were so expensive to make that record companies would release double albums and remove a track or two, just so that it could fit on a single CD? Well, there may be many negatives about the state of the music industry today—despite this being a time when so much music is being made that, like the glory days in the 1960s/70s, it seems like anything is possible…there’s just no more industry support to help any of it reach the same number of people—but one good thing is that the price of manufacturing a CD has dropped so much that artists like the SFJAZZ Collective can regularly release double or triple CD collections of the music toured each year, when the group pays tribute to a different artist by having each member contribute an arrangement of a favourite song by the honoree, as well as another original composition in his/her spirit, like its loving 2013 homage to pianist Chick Corea, Live SFJAZZ Center 2013—The Music Of Chick Corea & New Compositions (SFJAZZ, 2013). 
Well, it turns out that Corea has his own multi-disc live set on offer this year: Trilogy, a whopping three-disc, nearly three-and-a-half hour collection of music culled from various dates in his extensive world tour with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. Corea’s trio combines original material old and new, with a healthy dose of jazz standards, songs from the Great American Songbook…even one classical piece, liberally reinterpreted by this masterful, virtuosic and eminently swinging group. 
When the trio made a 2010 stop in Ottawa, Canada as part of the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival’s off-season program, there’d been no prior announcements about what the trio would be doing. With McBride and Blade first teaming up together in Corea’s fusion-heavy Five Peace Band collaboration with guitarist John McLaughlin, including a 2009 Montreal performancethat virtually lifted the roof off Place des Arts’ Salle Wilfred-Pelletier—and with the pianist last playing Ottawa in 2006 with longtime friends and musical collaborators Eddie Gomez and Airto Moreira in a trio that augmented Corea’s grand piano with plenty of Fender Rhodes and synth—there was every reason to expect that his trio with McBride and Blade might be configured along similar lines. 
How wrong everyone was. Instead, it was an all-acoustic affair that, by the end of 90 minutes of breathtaking interaction and, in particular from the puckish Corea, plenty of mischievous musical fun, many in the nearly sold-out Dominion Chalmers Church crowd were wondering it there’d ever be a release from this exceptional trio. Well, it’s been a long, long wait—nearly four years—but Trilogy absolutely meets any expectations and, in fact, with one small exception, completely exceeds them. 
Very little of the music performed at the Ottawa show made it onto this three-disc, 17-song set where Corea, McBride and Blade take their time with almost all the material: only a bright, Latinesque version of Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me” and a quirky but effervescently swinging take of Thelonious Monk’s rarely covered “Work,” first heard on Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins (OJC, 1955), drop below the nine-minute mark, while Corea’s epic “Piano Sonata: The Moon,” part of a larger suite that, at this time, remains unfinished, clocks in just one second shy of the thirty-minute mark. 

That piece may not be Trilogy’s centrepiece in terms of positioning (it opens the third disc), but it absolutely is, in terms of demonstrating just how simpatico and capable this trio can be in navigating both complex compositional constructs and more open-ended improvisational forays. “I thought it would be ideal,” Corea says in the press release, “to expand it in this trio setting since Christian and Brian are so adept at reading and interpreting tricky scores. We spent time weaving together written sections with the improvised sections.” 
Corea has had many trios over the years, and this one certainly ranks amongst his most memorable. Capable of swinging amiably on the set-opening “You’re My Everything”—though Blade’s now-signature explosive punctuations are never far away—and burning much more fiercely on an exhilaratingly up-tempo version of “Fingerprints,” Corea’s answer to Wayne Shorter’s classic “Footprints,” this is a trio that possesses all the necessary muscle to work with Corea’s often percussive pianism, while being equally adept at more refined elegance on a generous reading of “Alice in Wonderland,” the Sammy Fain composition made popular in the jazz world by pianist Bill Evans that here contains one of McBride’s most compelling solos of the set: robust yet effortlessly lyrical. 
Two tracks, culled from a Madrid performance at the end of a European tour leg, feature flautist Jorge Pardo—last heard with Corea on The Ultimate Adventure (Stretch, 2006)—and guitarist Niño Josele: Corea’s recent tribute to the late Paco De Lucia, “Homage”; and an appropriately flamenco-driven look at his classic “Spain” that begins with an a cappella guitar solo of stunning virtuosity that morphs into a lengthy rubato introduction with everyone in the pool. Corea slowly introduces a rhythm-heavy pedal tone-based solo that gradually finds its way to the song’s familiar changes, but the near-iconic theme is only revealed after Pardo takes a similarly impressive turn more than halfway through this epic 18-minute reinvention. 
The only misstep—as seems to be the case with other live Corea recordings like Rhumba Flamenco: Live in Europe (Stretch, 2005)—is a feature for his wife, vocalist Gayle Moran. As ever, Moran possesses a beautiful voice of unique purity; the problem is, however, that while Corea has utilized her voice to great effect in the past with multilayered choral tracks on albums like The Leprechaun (Polydor, 1976) and My Spanish Heart (Polydor, 1976), when Moran sings standards, as she does here with “Someday My Prince Will Come,” she’s simply too pure. Perhaps the biggest misstep of all is ending the album with Moran’s guest spot, but after three hours and fifteen minutes of transcendence, a brief ten minutes of less-than-perfection doesn’t represent such a bad signal-to-noise ratio. 
Impeccably recorded by Corea’s longtime recording engineer Bernie Kirsh, Trilogy leaps out of the speakers with pristine clarity and visceral punch. After last year’s exceptional electric excursion, The Vigil (Stretch, 2013), Trilogy is also a reminder that Corea’s allegiance to the tradition is as complete as ever, and that he’s in very good company with McBride and, in particular, Blade, who hasn’t done an in-the-tradition, hard-swinging session like this in quite some time. 
It’s hard to believe that Corea is now 73 years old but, if anything, he’s never been more active—and, with albums as superb as Trilogy, in the company of the equally outstanding McBride and Blade, clearly at the top of his game.

John Kelman (AllAboutJazz)