Chick Corea – Trilogy ★★★★ Recommended

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Concord CJA3568502

Chick Corea (p), Christian McBride (b), Brian Blade (d) plus Jorge Pardo (fl) and Niño Josele (g). Rec. date not stated

Chick Corea has been a part of the jazz furniture since the 1960s and it is perhaps tempting to take his great achievements in jazz for granted. So it’s worth reminding ourselves he has had to reinforce his mantelpiece to accommodate 20 Grammy Awards (he is in fact the fourth most- nominated artist in Grammy history), is a NEA Jazz Master and has authored some of the most influential jazz recordings of the last 50 years.

Throughout, his creative spirit has never appeared to falter. Now aged 73, an age when most jazz musicians are content for an occasional tour to revisit their honourable pasts, Corea keeps up a demanding schedule pushing the envelope nightly – this 3CD set of free-flowing trio jazz was recorded live in Washington D.C., Oakland in California, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Turkey and Japan. Corea’s accompanists – McBride and Blade – are from among that select few who breathe the heady air at the top of their profession. They are half his age but are swept along by the pianist’s restless creativity that succeeds in combining intensity – a lot of musical ideas are compressed into small spaces – with what some observers have called ‘impishness’ but what is, in effect, his musical audacity.

Corea covers a lot of musical ground here, from the Great American Songbook to jazz standards (including his own composition ‘Spain’) to classical music; Scriabin’s ‘Opus 11, No. 9’ and his own classically inspired ‘Piano Sonata: The Moon’. The latter, effectively the centrepiece of this album set, lasts some 30 minutes and is a reminder of what a complete pianist Corea is – in the Mike Dibbs documentary The Art of Improvisation featuring Keith Jarrett there is a wonderful section where Jarrett and Corea combine on Mozart’s ‘Concerto No. 10 in Eb Major for Two Pianos’ where both pianists rise to the sublime majesty and challenge of Mozart, with Corea especially making it all appear so effortless.

There is a precise analogy to be made with the music made here – it may sound effortless, but that conceals the craftsmanship, flair and sheer inspiration of the moment to create what is probably his finest work since he left ECM in the 1980s.

– Stuart Nicholson