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May 2007

Chick Corea
The Ultimate Adventure: Live in Barcelona

Putting aside the pretentious first part of the title, which actually refers to a book by L. Ron Hubbard, The Ultimate Adventure: Live in Barcelona is quite simply one of the most beautifully shot and well-recorded jazz concert films I’ve ever seen. Captured at a historic concert hall in Barcelona, the film captures a stirring performance in 2006 by Corea’s Touchstone band and the cinematography is comparable to what Jonathan Demme did for Neil Young in Heart of Gold. The gliding cameras always seem to be in the right place but are never in the way. The colors are rich and the sound design is exquisite.

Thankfully, the artfulness of director Xavier Atance is matched by that of the musicians. The international band includes the rhythm section of former Corea collaborators Carles Benavent on bass and Tom Brechtlein on drums, plus newcomers Jorge Pardo on flute and saxophone and Rubem Dantas on percussion. Save for an encore with a reworking of Corea’s classic “Spain,” the concert contains all-new material from his album of the same name and the music clearly evokes early Return to Forever, in instrumentation and flavor. As Tom Brechtlein says in one of the film extras, “It’s like flamenco-salsa-jazz-chamber-music.” Indeed, the music contains all of those elements, apropos to Corea’s background as well as the performance setting. The appearance of two flamenco dancers on a few songs enhances the show both musically and visually.

Reveling in the spontaneity of it all, Corea himself seems to be having a great time—jamming on percussion, playing the inside of the piano, cheering on the dancers, mugging for the audience. He splits his time evenly between the Yamaha keyboard (set mostly to a Fender Rhodes sound) and a Yamaha grand piano. Corea may be one of the most influential pianists of his generation, yet no one really sounds quite like him. Electric or acoustic, he is instantly recognizable for his touch, playful use of melody and darting rhythm. Accordingly, the music is joyful and the lengthy concert (almost two hours) seems to just float along.

Even the extras are strong, including a revealing behind-the-scenes piece on the concert and film, as well as a making-of-the-recording doc. All in all, this DVD sets a very high standard for performance videos in the jazz genre.

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