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Piano Forte: Chick Corea & Ran Blake/Frank Carlberg

Doug Collette By

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Originally classified as a percussion device, the piano these days is also generally considered a stringed instrument and, certainly under the right hands, those eighty-eight keys have the ability to conjure up fluid lines that effectively combine melody and rhythm. It is hardly a surprise then that such a versatile tool has evolved into one of the fundamental components in the realm of jazz: not only does the piano lend itself to all manner of mixes with other instruments including guitars and horns, but it also carries a self-sufficiency rendering it ideal for the small combo, most especially a trio with bass and drums, but also in that solo setting proffered by these two releases. In yet another reflection of the piano's multi-faceted nature, each of these titles highlights different aspects of its usage.

Chick Corea
Plays
Concord Music Group
2020

Whether in the various group contexts or in a solo setting such as Plays, Chick Corea's piano work radiates a readily-discernible dignity. And if that virtue does not actually belie the lighthearted tone of this title (or his unctuous between-song repartee), then it certainly sets out in much sharper relief the whimsy and serendipity that is also intrinsic to his well-schooled and practiced approach to the instrument. Accordingly—and hardly surprisingly—a composer of such renown as this man offers reverence for all the tunes he chooses, regardless of the source, and that attribute may be the overriding thread of continuity across these two CDs. Whether classical ("Mozart Piano Sonata in F"), jazz standard (Thelonious Monk's"Pannonica"), pieces by other subjects of his admiration (Bill Evans' "Waltz For Debby) or the self-composed (eight pieces titled "Children's Song"), Corea respects the novelty of the structures. Yet his obvious admiration also functions as means to the end of curiously exploring the nuances with the respective constructs, all the better to imbue the performance with his own alternately free-spirited and disciplined persona.

Ran Blake/Frank Carlberg
Gray Moon
Red Piano Records
2020

Something of a miniature of the Corea album in terms of material from 'The Great American Songbook' ("Tea For Two"), jazz standards ("Take The A Train"), international ("Vradiazi"), cinema fare ("Pinky") and original compositions ("Memphis" and "Vanguard)," these duo explorations of Ran Blake and Frank Carlberg's also offer a corollary vision of the interpretative possibilities of the piano in a collaborative setting. Yet, this program in action isn't so much the work of two artists telepathically interacting (though it does transcend that oft-rendered cliche), but a pair of players operating as if alter egos of each other: at any given time, the notes, runs and improvisations are those the other might play during a chosen tune. And just as these two pianists are virtually exchanging their respective musicianly personae, the moods they conjure up can change in a nanosecond from quiet rumination ("Mood Indigo") to the playful, exploratory "Short Life of Barbara Monk"). What is even more remarkable than the symbiosis, however, is that every distinct atmosphere becomes so fully and completely rendered, it's as if each was the duo's niche, offered in nuanced and numerous variations.

Tracks and Personnel

Plays

Tracks: CD 1: Chick Talks Mozart and Gershwin; Mozart: Piano Sonata in F, KV332 (2nd Part -Adagio); Someone to Watch Over Me; Improvisation on Scarlatti; Scarlatti: Sonata in D minor K9, L413 Allegro; Yesterdays; Chick Talks Bill Evans and Antonio Jobim; Waltz for Debby; Desafinado; Chopin: Prelude Op. 28 #4; Scriabin: Prelude Op.11 (Part 1) #4; Chick Talks Monk; Pannonica; Trinkle Tinkle; Blue Monk. CD 2: Pastime Paradise; Chick Talks Paco; The Yellow Nimbus; Chick Talks Portraits; Portrait: Henrietta; Portrait: Chris; Chick Talks Duets; Duet: Yaron; Duet: Charles; Chick Talks Children's Songs; Children's Song No. 1; Children's Song No. 3; Children's Song No. 4; Children's Song No. 9; Children's Song No. 10; Children's Song No. 15; Children's Song No. 17; Children's Song No. 12.

Personnel: Chick Corea: piano.

Gray Moon

Tracks: Vradiazi; Bebopper; El Cant Dels Ocells; Take The A Train; Pinky; Dr. Mabuse; Round Midnight; Gunther's Magic Row; Stratusphunk; Wish I Could Talk To You Baby; Vanguard; Memphis; No More; Tea for Two; Short Life of Barbara Monk; Mood Indigo.

Personnel: Ran Blake: piano; Frank Carlberg: piano.

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