This was an idea whose time had come. Nearly every member of Chick Corea’s Origin has a solo record or two out on Corea’s Stretch label. (Drummer Jeff Ballard’s trio project is not far off at the time of this writing.) With Origin and on their own, these young players and composers have been creating great new music, and it makes perfect sense to feature highlights of their work on a compilation disc. Serious jazz fans with limited budgets can hear choice bits from six albums and decide which ones they might want to explore further. But there are a couple of tracks that you’ll hear only on the compilation itself. One is a nine-minute-plus version of Corea’s great modal tune "Psalm," a cut that made it onto the Japanese release of Origin’s latest, Change. The other is an absolutely brilliant piece titled "Beat Street," by Jeff Ballard and his trio with tenorist Mark Turner and bassist Larry Grenadier. Presumably, this is a sign of what’s to come from a future Jeff Ballard album, and it’s an awfully good sign.
As for the chosen tracks, there’s "Wigwam" from Origin’s Change ; "I B 4 U" and "Madrid" from bassist Avishai Cohen’s Colors and Adama, respectively; "Turnin’ the Corner" and "Roots & Herbs" from altoist Steve Wilson’s Passages ; "Shadows" and "I’m Old Fashioned" from trombonist Steve Davis’s Portrait In Sound ; and "Made By Walking" and "Flicks" from tenorist Tim Garland’s Made By Walking. Davis’s "I’m Old Fashioned" is the only standard in the collection, which is fitting given that Davis travels in more "trad" circles than the others. Still, this medium bright, reharmonized arrangement is quite out of the ordinary, and Steve Nelson’s vibes solo is burning. "Roots & Herbs" and "Flicks" are short, evocative snippets, full of unusual sonic and orchestrational choices. Avishai Cohen’s pieces are the most boldly eclectic of the batch, with Fender Rhodes textures driving the dance-groove atmosphere of "I B 4 U" and Amos Hoffman’s oud lending exotic flavor to "Madrid." Wilson’s energetic, up-tempo "Turnin’ the Corner" is a highlight from one of the top albums of the year, and Garland’s soft-toned, highly advanced tenor work on "Made by Walking" is indicative of the many gems from the album of the same name. Corea, it should be noted, is not at all the main piano presence on this compilation: Brad Mehldau, Bruce Barth, Geoff Keezer, David Hazeltine, and Jason Lindner all make strong appearances.
Having made jazz history several times over, Corea has now established himself, in his middle age, as one of the savviest discoverers of new jazz talent. And this while at the helm of one of the best ensembles of his career. The up-and-coming young artists of Origin have surely benefited from their association with Corea, but so has Corea’s reputation gained luster through his association with them.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.