Chick Corea has been one of the jazz world’s most prolific and influential composers for more than three decades, and the best one can say about this impressive salute by Mats Holmquist’s Stockholm-based Big Bad Band is that his music has seldom sounded more enchanting. I don’t know if Corea has heard this, but if he has he must be grinning from ear to ear. Simply put, it’s a marvelous salute, teeming with rich orchestral colors, playful rhythms and exemplary blowing by everyone concerned.
Holmquist, a Swede who has masters degrees in composition not only from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm but from the University of North Texas as well, is a great admirer of Corea’s talents, and it shows. The works he has chosen to orchestrate are almost exclusively from the ‘70s, representing, as he says, Chick’s “Jazzy side.” And even though he has passed over two of my personal favorites (“Spain,” “La Fiesta”), that’s about the only less-than-acclamatory comment I can make about such an otherwise laudable endeavor.
Corea’s melodic endowments are readily apparent on the airy “Windows,” which embodies earnest solos by trumpeter Peter Asplund and pianist Daniel Karlsson. “Humpty Dumpty” swings hard behind Johan Löfcrantz’ forceful drumming and graphic statements by Karlsson and tenors Henrik Westerberg and Robert Nordmark, after which the charming “One Step” takes the tempo down a notch as Karlsson again solos, this time with bassist Filip Augustson and trumpeter Karl Olandersson.
“Armando’s Rhumba” is as candid as the name, its sinuous rhythms enhanced by group hand-clapping and crisp solos by clarinetist Pär Grebacken, baritone Jerker Lindström and electric violist Henrik Frendin. “Times Lie,” a groovy essay that opens quietly before gathering momentum, is punctuated by Nordmark’s tenor, Karlsson’s piano and Lofcräntz’ emphatic timekeeping. There are two ballads, “Crystal Silence” and “Duende,” the former featuring Grebacken’s soprano sax, the latter Frendin’s electric viola, and they are as appetizing as anything else on the menu.
For those who appreciate Chick Corea and admire superlative big bands, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Personnel: Mats Holmquist, leader, arranger; Fredrik Oscarsson, Stefan Persson, H