Music Forever & Beyond: The Selected Works of Chick Corea 1964-1996
Chick Corea, extraordinary pianist, extraordinary composer: This lavishly packaged five CD set, is a well-balanced study of one of the leading figures in the Miles Davis Diaspora. The layout of the set is thoughtful and useful: discs one-three comprise a chronological review of Chick's primary efforts, from the 1968 trio date with Roy Haynes and Miroslav Vitous that had immediate impact on the scene, through the various Akoustic and Elektric bands that carried him into the mid-'90s. Disc four is devoted to Solos, Duets and Surprises, and the fifth to the new Chick Corea Quartet, with Bob Berg on saxes, John Pattitucci on bass and Gary Novak on drums.
Throughout the retrospective material, Corea's gifts as improviser and composer are much in evidence. Though one track by Circle is the only representative of the broad range of work he did for ECM, including the astonishing-to-this-day solo improvisations, there is more than enough variety here to convince us of Corea's endless capacity for invention, his seemingly unquenchable thirst for the new. Among the surprises is 51 seconds worth of eight-year-old Chick demonstrating precocious talent and self-possession on a 78 rpm artifact of parental pride. There are other previously unreleased gems, including live recordings with John McLaughlin, Bobby McFerrin, Gary Burton and Miles Davis. This last, from 1969, finds Chick providing instant composerly context for Miles, ever the brilliant balladeer, even amplified.
The new set has but one Corea composition on the menu, with three Monk tunes and three standards fleshing out the set. Corea surprises once again, proving himself a more adept student of Monk than one might imagine. If his precise touch and time are less, well, individualistic than Monk's, he is able to build virtuosic architectonic shrines around these tunes-including the piano quintet arrangement of "'Round Midnight" that concludes disc four. Corea keeps a fairly tight rein on Berg, eliciting from him a cool but more thoughtful performance than usual; Pattitucci is as ever magical with the pianist.
In summary, there is a great deal of terrific music in this set; its weaknesses lie in too many of Corea's experiments with electronic excess, and too little of his more adventurous forays into solo and group improvisation.