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Chick Corea

Mark Sabbatini By

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This 17-member ensemble set is a classic example of Corea's ability to divide critics. Consider these excerpts from today's two best-known jazz reference texts: One says it proves Corea "was up to any task he chose at this point in time...compositionally and intellectually at the top of his game;" the other blasts it as a "strained" album that "gives every impression of having been got up for the tourists." A maybe for casual types, a better choice for collections who can debate if it's a true exploration of his Spanish heritage or a dated over-synthsized mess.

Return To Forever Live (1978)

This double-length album got tepid reviews and has mediocre sound quality, but is a worthwhile pickup for RTF fans if only to hear the players stretching out in some of the marathon selections. Stanley Clarke burns his bass strings on "So Long Mickey Mouse," then delivers a virtuoso acoustic solo on "The Moorish Warrior and Spanish Princess." that goes from Baroque to the flat-out rock of his hit "School Days." Saxophonist Joe Farrell is particularly impressive on the relatively straight ahead "Serenade." Corea performs well throughout and, if not always in top form, his closing "Spanish Fantasy" sends the audience home in style.

Corea/Hancock (1978)

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)

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