Chick Corea Elektric Band: To the Stars (2004)
Corea's electric work has always had its share of detractors. Amongst the charges: self-indulgence, bombast and over-playing. But while there may be some truth to these charges, the reality is that Corea has always found his electric bands to be the most complete sonic orchestras, dating back to his fusion glory days with Return to Forever. And the Elektric band, with guitarist Frank Gambale, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl, creates one mighty noise indeed. From the Latin-tinged "Mistress Luck - A Portrait" and "Mistress Luck - The Party" to the more straight-ahead funk of "Johnny's Landing" and the more compositionally-expansive "The Long Passage," where wife Gayle Moran Corea builds a highly effective multi-layered choir, Corea and company deliver high-octane fusion that doesn't forget about groove and feel, even as it traverses some incredibly challenging passages.
While Corea's electric work has often been compared less-than-favourably with the work of others of his generation, including Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Hancock's various electric projects, the one thing that is inarguable is that it has an identity. While the Elektric band is a different beast from Return to Forever, there's no question that they both stemmed from the same musical mind. The opening salvo, "Check Blast," with its mind-warping ensemble runs and awe-inspiring mini-solos with everyone getting brief solo time in duet with Weckl, may be a product of the 21st century, but clearly comes from the same composer that created Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior. And while Corea's brand of fusion may not be to everyone's tastes, the fact that it has a distinct identity clearly gives it a weight that is difficult to dismiss.
And Corea is capable of writing complex pieces that still manage to remain accessible. "Alan Corday" is an all-acoustic affair, with an "impossible solo" for acoustic guitar by Gambale; Corea claims that the piece, inspired by a fandango rhythm originally heard on a record by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, is "technically the most demanding tune I've ever written." But while Corea and the Elektric band manage to navigate some ear-bending passages, they are never less than musical. To the Stars is a welcome return for Corea to the energetic and complex electric music that gained him some of his greatest exposure.
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Track Listing: Check Blast; Port View I; Mistress Luck-A Portrait; Mistress Luck-The Party; Port View 2; Johnny's Landing; Port View 3; Alan Corday; Port View 4; Hound of Heaven; Port View 5; The Long Passage; Port View 6; Jocelyn-The Commander; Port View 7; Captain Jocelyn-Tributre By His Crew; Captain Jocelyn-The Pianist
Personnel: Chick Corea (keyboards, piano), Frank Gambale (guitar), Eric Marienthal (saxophone), John Patitucci (bass), Dave Weckl (drums)
With guest appearances by: Steve Wilson (saxophone), Pernell Saturnino (percussion), Gayle Moran Corea (vocal choir)
Record Label: Stretch Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock