Chick Corea / Bela Fleck: The Enchantment (2007)
It is not obvious that music is always musical. Formulaic repetition of past innovations quickly become recognizably trite and, to most ears, off-putting. The duo setting presses a brutal honesty between musicians that has historically not only kept curdled tendencies at bay but has also pushed forth innovation. Jazz musicians of the finest reputation, including guitarists Jim Hall, Joe Pass and Pat Metheny, and pianists Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau, have forged platinum grails of the jazz tradition in this setting. Pianist Chick Corea and banjoist Béla Fleck's The Enchantment is certainly no aberration.
Like the most successful duo pairings, Corea and Fleck burnish their well-deserved credentials through sensitivity. The careful inter-instrumental echoes of the melody on Corea's "Joban Dna Nopia is an impressive example of the musical relationship rather than what the album could have beena mere amalgamation of two musical giants stomping through tunes together but separately.
And yet, much to the album's benefit, the pair stretches past mere harmonious collaboration to make this record an arresting success. From Appalachan tip-toeing to ponderous laments and striding sambas, The Enchantment's stylistic variety is scintillating and harmonically titillating. The album possesses a wider reach and accessibility than it otherwise would have as an esoteric product of musical brilliance. The record is immensely listenable while also being immeasurably intriguing.
While the album's most laudable merits are earned collectively, Corea and Fleck's individual playing is just stunning. Corea shines forth in his proclivity to drift convincingly between jazz accompaniment, Brazilian musings, and fluttering improvisation. Fleck's right-hand alacrity is as mesmerizing as his gargantuan melodic presence.
As is the case with the most magnificent duo performances, each musician brings a career's worth of experience and innovation to these eleven tracks. The fusion of these two luminaries on this one disc is just as fascinating a result as it is an idea. Anyone with a musical palatea sense for the beauty of consummate musical expressionwill find this record, in many ways, a perfect synthesis of two of the greatest American musical traditions. One could not ask for a more shining and worthy project.
Track Listing: Senorita; Spectacle; Joban Dna Nopia; Mountain; Children's Song #6; A Strange Romance; Menagerie; Waltse for Abby; Brazil; The Enchantment; Sunset Road.
Personnel: Chick Corea: piano; Bela Fleck: banjo.