Chick Corea, who lost me somewhere between akoustic and elektric, has been gently coaxing me back into his orbit with a hard–blowing new sextet, Origin, and Change is, from this observer’s vantage point, the group’s most persuasive outing to date. Chick evidently put a lot of thought into this studio session, varying color, tempo, mood and instrumentation to ensure a tasteful and invigorating odyssey from start to finish. The result is more than an hour of exemplary mainstream Jazz during which there is seldom a letdown. Having played together for some time now, the group sounds more self–assured and comfortable with one another, approaching at times the threshold of telepathic, which is where every purposeful Jazz combo aspires to be. As for Corea, he has pulled eleven adorable rabbits from his composer’s hat, keeping everything fresh and appealing from “Wigwam” through “Awakening.” Corea introduces “Wigwam” on the marimba, an instrument we’d love to hear him play more often (although there’s no complaining about his keyboard work, which is typically gregarious and inventive). In 1976 Corea wrote “Armando’s Rhumba” for his father and included it on the album My Spanish Heart. The gently swaying “Armando’s Tango,” a sort of sequel written en route to a series of concerts in South America, is enlivened by Wilson’s clarinet and an exquisite bass clarinet solo by the versatile Sheppard. Another Latin piece, “Little Flamenco,” puts the listener in a toe–tapping frame of mind before the tempo slows for the laid–back “Early Afternoon Blues,” which bows toward the Miles Davis masterpiece, “Kind of Blue” (and opens with a masterful piano/bass/drums passage before the horns enter). While Corea is impressive throughout, he’s at his zenith here, as are Wilson (on alto) and Davis, with respectable choruses by Sheppard (tenor) and Cohen. For sheer beauty, there’s the ballad “Before Your Eyes,” on which Corea, Sheppard (bass clarinet) and Wilson (flute) set the enchanting mood, followed by “L.A. Scenes,” a deliberately skittish musical walk through one of Corea’s former neighborhoods, Franklin Avenue. “Home,” inspired by a Booker Little composition, represents ease, comfort and familiarity, while “Spinner,” as its name implies, is based on the concept of rhythmic patterns spinning repeatedly until they blur. The piano trio takes center stage for “Compassion” (recorded several months earlier), an impressionistic look at the standard “It Could Happen to You.” Corea reworked Cohen’s piano piece, “Lylah” (Hebrew for “night”) and wrote a second movement that he called “Awakening.” And an awakening is precisely what this session may be for those who’ve lost touch with Corea. With Origin, he seems to have recaptured a groove that most mainline Jazz fans can easily embrace and appreciate.
Track listing: Wigwam; Armando’s Tango; Little Flamenco; Early Afternoon Blues; Before Your Eyes; L.A. Scenes; Home; The Spinner; Compassion (Ballad); Night (Lylah); Awakening (70:33).
Chick Corea, piano, marimba, hand claps; Steve Wilson, soprano, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Bob Sheppard, tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute; Steve Davis, trombone; Avishai Cohen, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums, hand claps.