Chick Corea & Return To Forever – No Mystery (1975)

LPFrontCover1No Mystery (1975) is the fifth studio album by jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever.

All members of the group contributed compositions to this album. Side A contains heavily funk-influenced material composed by each member of the group, whereas Side B is filled by Chick Corea compositions. Chick Corea won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Individual or Group Grammy Award in 1975 for this album. (by wikipedia)

The fourth edition of Return to Forever was a band that emphasized the screaming wah-wah guitar of Al Di Meola and every electric keyboard Chick Corea could get his hands on to play furiously fast runs. Where the initial, airy Flora Purim/Airto/Joe Farrell edition gave way to the second undocumented group featuring Earl Klugh, and the third band with electric guitarist Bill Connors, this RTF was resplendently and unapologetically indulgent, ripping through riffs and charted, rehearsed melodies, and polyrhythms like a circular saw through a thin tree branch. Their immediacy and visceral power is why rock audiences were drawn to them, impressed by their speed-demon vagaries as much as their concern for musicality. Thank goodness No Mystery had more than its share of toned-down acoustic moments, as well as the powerhouse fighter jet stance that most of their fans craved. It’s not nearly as balanced as the previous album Where Have I Known You Before?, but expounds on those themes — inspired by Neville not Harry Potter — in a more progressive though louder manner.

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The bold, dancing, and funky “Dayride” in a higher octave and vocal-type keyboard range perfectly identifies the group sound in a scant three-plus minutes. The two-part, 14-minute “Celebration Suite” gives you a larger view of the classical Bartok/Chopin influence of Corea, and the dramatic medieval or regal stance they alchemized with so many keyboard sounds. It’s pseudo-funky, Spanish in a 6/8 rhythm, wailing with Di Meola leaping forth in true guitar hero form, with some group-oriented perfunctory subtleties and complex lines. The title track is the jewel, an acoustic romp through fields of flowers with Lenny White on marimba buoyed by a beautiful, lilting, memorable melody and shifting loud and soft dynamics — a classic in the repertoire and a fan favorite. The tromping beat of “Jungle Waterfall” supersedes Stanley Clarke’s lithe lines, while noise keyboards dominate the silly “Sofistifunk.” Corea’s acoustic piano is featured on the chordal, grandiose solo “Excerpt from the First Movement of Heavy Metal,” and in duet with Clarke. the improvised “Interplay” shows a more spontaneous rather than rehearsed side of these brilliant musicians. Over time, No Mystery yields mixed results, where initially they were viscerally driven and ultimately impressive. The next phase of the group, as indicated by this recording, would take them into even more technologically dominated music. (by Michael G. Nastos)

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Personnel:
Stanley Clarke (bass, organ, synthesizer, vocals)
Chick Corea  (keyboards, vocals, syntesizer, snare drum, marimba)
Al Di Meola (guitar)
Lenny White (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Dayride (Clarke) 3.25
02. Jungle Waterfall (Corea/Clarke) 3.03
03. Flight Of The Newborn (Di Meola) 7.24
04. Sofistifunk (White) 3.54
05. Excerpt From The First Movement Of Heavy Metal (Corea/Clarke/White/Di Meola) 2.45
06. No Mystery (Corea) 6.13
07. Interplay (Corea/Clarke) 2.17
08. Celebration Suite, Part I (Corea) 8.19
09. Celebration Suite, Part II (Corea) 4.37

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L to R: Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea –  Return To Forever performing in 1974 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York.

Chick Corea & Gary Burton – The New Crystal Silence (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgThe New Crystal Silence is a 2008 live jazz album by Chick Corea and Gary Burton. It was released in a 2-disc set. The first disc was recorded May 10 & 12, 2007 at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. The second disc was recorded on July 7, 2007 at Bjornsonhuset in Molde, Norway, except for the track “Señor Mouse”, which was recorded July 13, 2007 at the Auditorio de Tenerife in Canary Island, Spain.

The album peaked number eleven in the Billboard Top Jazz album charts[4] and also won the Grammy awards for the Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group. (by wikipedia)

When Crystal Silence first appeared in 1972 on the ECM label, its cover photograph depicted a stellar shot of the sun, which appeared to be setting. That duet album featured two already-seasoned jazz veterans who were in their thirties, and had been part of many of the developments in the music for a decade. Corea’s credits included Miles Davis, his own Return to Forever, the “Is” sessions, Circle, and many others; Burton’s included tenures with George Shearing and Stan Getz as well as Larry Coryell. But the duet album they recorded for ECM was so utterly striking and arresting because it highlighted not only an entirely new way of playing duets between piano and vibes — which had been done previously and well by others — but a new way of hearing them as well.

Corea-Burton_composite.jpgAfter 35 years, five duet records, and countless tours together, the pair revisit the notion of the duet in two different contexts on this delightful, compelling double-disc package from Concord. The first disc finds the pair playing live in Sydney with that city’s symphony orchestra conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer and arranged by Tim Garland. The program includes five tunes, all of them composed by Corea. While it is disconcerting on first thought as to how an orchestra could add to the special intuitive communication this duo has developed since its first accidental performance at a festival in 1971, those fears disappear quickly after the orchestra’s intro, when Corea’s piano makes its entrance and Burton responds. It’s striking there was so little rehearsal time, and that Garland’s arrangements are so spot-on and attuned to the intricacy of what happens harmonically between these two. “Duende” opens the set with an enormous introductory sweep that feels more like a crescendo, but it gives way within two minutes to the exploration of extrapolated minors when Corea plays a single note that initiates his speaking voice on the piano. Burton answers and moves them into another direction, painting from the inside and pulling on certain notes as he quotes a melody that feels strangely like “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Then the pair are off, the orchestra brooding and shimmering behind them, opening up spaces where there would be tension in such a focused space of minor keys that sweep this way and that way, and then they engage fully with the orchestra. This continues through “Love Castle” and the speculative intro to “Brasilia,” which feels like a question. The rhythmic interplay is built layer upon layer, however sparely by the harmonic striations of vibes and piano as strings hover and cautiously seem to follow into a much more romantic and exotic flight of fancy.

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Of course, the title track, while seemingly an entirely new piece when played with this symphony, is no less limpid than its predecessor. The compositional notion is simply eased into more tentatively, but the interpolations between Burton and Corea are even cannier than one might expect. Everything begins in shade and shadow and is revealed in the full light of day. The set ends with a driving rendition of “La Fiesta,” begun with an intensely intricate series of counterpoint exchanges between the pair.

Disc two contains a live performance from the Molde Festival in Norway, with one cut, “Señor Mouse” (also from the Crystal Silence debut), recorded in the Canary Islands. Far more breezy but perhaps more taut and far less tentative, the set starts off with Corea’s “Bud Powell,” and Burton shines with his solo, moving through the lyric phrases as Corea punches in spaces with tough, jaunty chord masses. It swings like crazy before giving way to a stellar reading of Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby.” The melody, instantly recognizable in Corea’s hands, is nonetheless a bit heavier in touch, but that’s what makes it sound new as well.

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The solo he opens with carries the basic lyric frame in his two-handed chords and runs before Burton slides the melody in solo, as expressive and intimate as one could ever hope for before it opens wide and sings. This happens on the other standards here as well, the deeply emotive reading of “I Loves You, Porgy,” with Burton’s solo as tender as a singer emoting the words, and “Sweet and Lovely,” where the pair just dig in and let the tune guide them on a wonderfully engaging, swinging ride through its harmonic possibilities. The other four Corea tunes here include a very different version of “La Fiesta” as a set closer; “No Mystery,” which is more mysterious in some ways because of its use of arpeggios, space, and counterpoint; and the all-too-brief rhythmic invention of “Alegria.” The bottom line, of course, is that this set, as different as its two mirroring discs are, is nearly magical in both its intensity and creativity, and in its wonderfully relaxed manner of walking through the deep passageways of improvisation. Anyone who is a fan of the duet recordings between these two should own this. Anyone not familiar should check out the ECM disc first, and then move straight here, filling in the gaps later. They are wonderful counterparts to one another and immensely satisfying listens. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Gary Burton (vibraphone)
Chick Corea (piano)
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Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Duende (Corea) 10.54
02. Love Castle (Corea) 12.41
03. Brasilia (Corea) 9.38
04. Crystal Silence (Corea) 14.09
05. La Fiesta (Corea) 13.35

CD 2:
01. Bud Powell (Corea) 7.55
02. Waltz For Debby (Evans) 8.03
03. Alegria (Corea) 5.49
04. No Mystery (Corea) 9.12
05. Señor Mouse (Corea) 9.10
06. Sweet And Lovely (Arnheim/Daniels/Tobias) 6.56
07. I Love Porgy (Gershwin/Heyward) 4.09
08. La Fiesta (Corea) 10.41

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Return To Forever feat. Chick Corea – Where Have I Known You Before (1974)

lpfrontcover1Where Have I Known You Before is the fourth album by jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever, the second since leader Chick Corea had “revamped” the line-up and moved towards electric instrumentation, playing jazz fusion with clear influences from progressive rock.

While the style of music did not change much since the previous album, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), important changes took place in the band’s sound and line-up. Chick Corea, for instance, had started to use synthesizers (most notably the Moog Minimoog and ARP Odyssey synthesizers), developing the distinctive sound he became known for. An equally important change in the band was the replacement of guitarist Bill Connors with the then 20-year-old virtuoso Al Di Meola. Connors left the band before the recording of this album to concentrate on his acoustic solo career. Overall, the band developed a clearer, more focused sound and style. This was due in part to the personnel changes, the implementation of new technology, and new playing techniques, but it was also a product of more careful recording and production in the studio.

Between the album’s longer tracks are three of Corea’s short piano improvisations that all bear a title that begins “Where Have I…”. The first track is Stanley Clarke’s “Vulcan Worlds”, which features some melodic motifs that would also appear on Clarke’s self-titled second solo album Stanley Clarke the same year. The song proved Clarke “one of the fastest and most facile electric bassists around”. Each player except for drummer Lenny White takes long solos. The next long track is Lenny White’s composition “The Shadow of Lo”, a complex piece with many changes in mood. The last track on Side A is Corea’s “Beyond the Seventh Galaxy”, a sequel to his “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy”, the title track from the group’s previous album.

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Side B begins with the collective jam “Earth Juice”. Most of Side B is taken up by Corea’s 14-minute epic “Song to the Pharaoh Kings”, a song notable for its use of the harmonic minor scale. The track has a long keyboard intro, after which Chick Corea is joined by the full band, and an “eastern” theme appears. Each member of the band plays a long solo.

This Return to Forever set finds guitarist Al DiMeola debuting with the pacesetting fusion quartet, an influential unit that also featured keyboardist Chick Corea, electric bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White. On this high energy set, short interludes separate the main pieces: “Vulcan Worlds,” “The Shadow of Lo,” “Beyond the Seventh Galaxy,” “Earth Juice” and the lengthy “Song to the Pharoah Kings.” Acoustic purists are advised to avoid this music, but listeners who grew up on rock and wish to explore jazz will find this stimulating music quite accessible. (by Scott Yanow)

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Personnel:
Stanley Clarke (bass, organ, bell tree, chimes)
Chick Corea (keyboards, synthesizers, percussion)
Al Di Meola (guitar)
Lenny White (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Vulcan Worlds (Clarke) 7.51
02. Where Have I Loved You Before (Corea) 1.02
03. The Shadow of Lo (White) 7.32
04. Where Have I Danced With You Before (Corea) 1.14
05. Beyond The Seventh Galaxy (Corea) 3.13
06. Earth Juice (Corea/Clarke/White/Di Meola) 3.46
07. Where Have I Known You Before (Corea) 2.20
08. Song To The Pharoah Kings (Corea) 14.21

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Chick Corea – The Song Of Singing (1970)

FrontCover1The Song of Singing is Chick Corea’s fifth solo recording, released in 1970.

The album features a trio with Barry Altschul on drums and Dave Holland on bass (together with Corea making up three fourths of Circle). The setting of the album is free and spontaneous with a few scripted pieces to keep everything on track. The lone piece composed by someone not in the band, Wayne Shorter’s Nefertiti is now considered a jazz standard. (by wikipedia)

This LP features the rhythm section of Circle (pianist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul) playing rather advanced improvisations on group originals (highlighted by Holland’s “Toy Room”) and “Nefertiti.” Influenced by the early Art Ensemble of Chicago, this music is rather free and avant-garde but rewards close listenings. (by Scott Yanow)

Chick pairs with his Circle collaborators Dave Holland (bass) and Barry Altschul (drums) for The Song of Singing, a free-thinking trio album built on truly extraordinary improvisation. The spirit of the trio pulses through each tune, building from quiet tones to the refined beauty of the closer, Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti.” This is a next-level piano trio giving it all they’ve got.(taken from Chick´s website)

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Personnel:
Barry Altschul (drums)
Chick Corea (piano)
Dave Holland (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Toy Room (Holland) 5.51
02. Ballad I (Altschul/Corea/Holland) 4.17
03. Rhymes (Corea) 6.50
04. Flesh (Corea) 6.06
05. Ballad III (Altschul/Corea/Holland) 5.34
06. Nefertiti (Shorter) 7.05

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