One thing that must be said about Chick Corea: musically, the man does not stand still. Whether one is going in his direction is another issue altogether. Chick's newest group, Origin, was recorded during a week-long gig in December '97 at New York's celebrated Birdland nightspot. It's a tight sextet with an exuberant front line - saxophonists Bob Sheppard and Steve Wilson, trombonist Steve Davis - capably supported by Corea, bassist Cohen and drummer Cruz. The band opens the set with a three-part suite, the concise "Say It Again," parts 1 and 2, and the blustery "Double Image," whose 17:32 running time provides abundant solo space for everyone. All were written by Corea, as were the next three numbers - "Dreamless," "Molecules" and "Soul Mates" (the briefest of the trio at 9:00). Origin closes the set with an extended version of the standard "It Could Happen to You," on which Corea's Tatum-esque introductory statement paves the way for some zestful straight-ahead blowing by the band (I'd have welcomed more of that) and frisky solos by Chick, Sheppard (tenor), trombonist Davis and Wilson (alto). Corea lays out behind half of Wilson's chorus while Cohen's sonorous bass keeps time and Cruz deftly works the rims with sticks. Bass and drums have their say too (with Corea and Cruz trading eights) before the ensemble returns to enclose the package in style. An observation you can take to the bank is that Corea is a first-rate post-bop pianist (ask almost anyone); why I've seldom warmed to his muse remains a mystery, even to me. While I admire his proven technical prowess and writing skills, and must admit that he can swing hard whenever he chooses to, he simply doesn't reach me on an emotional level - a shortcoming that I know is mine, not his. This recording is a splendid example of what I am trying to point out. The melodies aren't unattractive, everyone plays well, and yet none of what is produced (with the possible exception of "It Could Happen to You") touches a responsive chord. Why? I don't know. Either it does or it doesn't, I suppose. Look, this is an ambitious session by a widely acclaimed pianist and his well-assembled working group. Although it doesn't happen to grab me, you may find yourself enraptured by its charms. Go for it.
Track Listing: Say It Again (part 1); Say It Again (part 2); Double Image; Dreamless; Molecules; Soul Mates; It Could Happen to You (65:37).
Personnel: Chick Corea, piano; Steve Wilson, flute, clarinet, alto and soprano sax; Bob Sheppard, flute, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor sax; Steve Davis, trombone; Avishai Cohen, bass; Adam Cruz, drums.