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Chick Corea

Mark Sabbatini By

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Another album earning wildly mixed reviews, with electronic keyboard pioneers performing an acoustic concert of mostly original songs. Three of the six selections are 14 to 19 minutes long and there are elements of classical composition within the marathon tracks. Critics say there is far too much aimless noodling and too little musicsmanship between the performers.

Live In Montreux (1981)

An excellent straight-ahead concert album, due in no small part to saxophonist Joe Henderson as part of an all-star quartet that also includes Roy Haynes on drums and Gary Peacock on bass. Haynes, who maintains his usual quiet fire throughout, ends the performance with a high-energy extended solo on "So In Love."

Three Quartets (1981)

An overlooked acoustic album with saxophonist Michael Brecker, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Steve Gadd performing four lengthy originals that include tributes to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. Generally considered no worse than an average all-star collaboration, some consider it one of Corea's finest. A reissued CD adds four shorter tracks.

Touchstone (1982)

An unusual album with songs ranging from a conventional sextet to a one-time reunion with his Return To Forever quartet. Interesting because of the diversity, but none of the performances stand out as remarkable in their respective genres.

Children's Songs (1983)

This solo collection of mostly short songs with simple themes is another love-it-or-hate-it affair, with critics saying there is little development in the pieces. Fans say it captures a wide and pleasing variety of melodies and moods.

Trio Music: Live In Europe (1984)

Some say Corea's reunion with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes contains more insight and energy on 1981's Trio Music , but many others consider this live set to be an overlooked gem. The concert features a blend of originals, standards and one classical piece.

The Chick Corea Elektric Band (1986)

This album initially got a one-star review from Downbeat , but history has been kinder to the debut of a group marking Corea's return to electronic fusion during the late 1980s and early '90s. It marks the beginning of his long association with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl, and the collaboration with the latter on "Rumble" is a shining example of the frenetic interplay to come in future years. A handful other songs such as "No Zone" and "Sidewalk" feature catchy melodies that remain crowd-pleasing favorites. The overall canvas is colorful, but what's lacking are distinctive hues from the individual players.

GRP Super Live In Concert (1990)

Fans of the Elektric Band will find this double CD worth searching for because the entire second disc is Corea's band performing major hits from their early albums. The live versions are vastly superior to the studio cuts—among the highlights are Mariental's burning sax solo on "Time Track," and Corea and Patitucci lighting things up on the 18-minute "No Zone." Everyone in the band is in a comfort zone by now that is matched only by the best moments of their pinnacle studio album "Inside Out.". It is currently out of print, but not difficult to find inexpensive used copies.

Inside Out (1990)

The Elektric Band generally is considered a good, not great, stretch in Corea's career, but this album is a definite highlight for fans and those into reasonably eclectic modern fusion. The compositions are generally the strongest, if not most commercial accessible, Corea wrote for the band and everyone gets plenty of chances to stretch out in a settling they obviously had become familiar with. Of particular note is the 20-minute, four-part "Tale Of Daring" at the end of the album—a four-minute piano and drum battle between Corea and Weckl on part three is a staggering display of frenzied interaction nearly worth the price of the album by itself.

Alive (1991)

A love-it-or-hate-it outing, as Corea forms his Akoustic Band with Patitucci and Weckl and infuses a hefty fusion presence into a set of standards and originals in a "live" set. Incredibly high energy outing, especially during the first half, and fans of Weckl will find some of his most intense work ever on the opening "On Green Dolphin Street" and Corea's "Humpty Dumpty." Critics say—with some justification -there's little intellectual heft.

Play (1992)

This Grammy-winning live session with vocalist Bobby McFerrin is another polarizing album, either loved as a fun-spirited performance or hated as shallow and misguided. Corea isn't breaking any new ground here, so the appeal largely depends on how much the listener wants to hear McFerrin use his voice to supply bass and rhythm parts to standards like "Spain" and "Blue Bossa." Average everything out and the result is two top-notch performers having an OK day—enough to make it a worthwhile listen. The pair collaborate again with an orchestra in 1996's The Mozart Sessions and Corea delivers some interesting improvisational moments, but the overall results are more straightforward and less interesting.

Return To The Seventh Galaxy (1996)

A double-CD featuring, in theory, highlights from the first two Return To Forever groups plus about 40 minutes of previously unreleased music. It's a very good choice for listeners new to RTF or who are looking for more after purchasing their first album, but those with a more complete collection may not find the additional material worth the expense.

Native Sense (1997)

This generally well-regarded reunion with Gary Burton resulted in another Grammy award. Most of the songs—some old, some new—are lengthy and both players show they have a lot of ideas left to share with each other. Particularly noteworthy are a harmonically complex "No Mystery" and an unusual bop treatment of Thelonious Monk's "Four On One."

Remembering Bud Powell (1997)

Probably the safest bet for a quality traditional jazz outing, as there is little disagreement it ranks among his top ventures into that field. The sextet tribute to one of Corea's mentors features a top-tier cast—including sax players Kenny Garrett and Joshua Redman, plus a reunion with Haynes—each of whom add their own modern touches to Powell's work. That's both the strength and weakness of the album; an up-tempo version of "Oblivion," for example, is a fascinating take on Powell's original, although one critic calls it "almost antagonistic."

Origin: Live At The Blue Note (1997) and A Week At The Blue Note (1998)

These are good, not great, performances by a new sextet of players brought in by Corea. The high-energy acoustic sessions deserve consideration from fans largely because it is the pianist's only easily available boxed set as of summer 2004. Listeners can audition the single CD without fear before deciding if they're interested in the six-disc set, since each features different performances.

Corea Concerto (1999)
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