Chick Corea and the London Philharmonic Orchestra Featuring Origin
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It was probably inevitable that Chick Corea's resonant, popular "Spain," a buoyant theme hinged to cleverly shifting Latin rhythms, might eventually be reborn as an orchestral piece. Corea is a musical renaissance man, after all, able to adapt his enormous talents as a pianist and composer to any number of settings, from classical to acoustic bebop to electric funk, and everything in between.
That's not to say this recently realized version of "Spain," debuted onstage in Japan in 1995 and comprising the first three tracks of Corea.Concerto, isn't an intriguing work that offers a new way of hearing the old favorite. The London Philharmonic, following Corea's impressionistic, roving piano solo, kicks in with a sonorous fanfare, foreshadowing the melody and drawing out the tension before giving way to the pianist's Origin sextet. Bob Sheppard's flute work underscores the lightness of the feel, and then it's on to other inspired improvisations (by trombonist Steve Davis, soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, and Corea) before the orchestra returns for a dramatic, thundering recap.
"Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra," the other half of a disc that could prove challenging to marketers (is it jazz or classical?), is heavily influenced by Mozart and dedicated to "religious freedom" by its composer, a practicing Scientologist and part-time Clearwater resident. The first movement, cued by familiar Corean piano curlicues, is a lively, airy conversation between the soloist (ably abetted by Origin bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Jeff Ballard) and the orchestra. Part two, punched up with martial percussion, is darker and imbued with melancholy. The final section is more demonstrative, with heavier accents and a brassy sendoff. It's an engrossing study in contrasts, all the more impressive given that it's Corea's first experiment with the form. -- Philip Booth