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Chick Corea: Past, Present and Futures

How good is Chick Corea’s new trio with bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Jeff Ballard? Good enough that it bears comparison with the classic late-’60s trio of Corea, Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes. Is Past, Present & Futures the Now He Sings, Now He Sobs of the 2000s? It could be, although more time must pass before we know whether this album captures and transmits changes and moods of this decade as the classic solid state LP summarized the ’60s. Whether it contains a piece as influential as “Matrix” remains to be seen, but the pianist’s new compositions are among his most attractive. “Dignity,” “Life Line,” “The Chelsea Shuffle” and “Rhumba Flamenco” have arresting qualities that give them the potential to become staples with the attractiveness and durability of Corea pieces like “Spain,” “Windows” and “Matrix.”

In 1968, Corea was coalescing his influences: bebop, Latin music, French impressionism, free jazz. Today, he is settled in his certainty about musical values, but his adventurousness continues to make him a work in progress. The trio represents a distillation of the wisdom and experience Corea invests in his six-piece band Origin. The sextet is an amalgam of discipline and freewheeling. At its best, it ranges along the frontier of rhythmic and harmonic risk. The same has been true of the trio. In this album it does not reach the point of experimentation and abandon of some of its recent live performances, but it transmits a fine sense of exhilaration and discovery. In the flurry of interest in and publicity about new pianists, it would be a mistake to underestimate Corea’s undiminished energy, inventiveness, technical brilliance and currency. Cohen and Ballard match and complement him in all of those categories.

This is an important album.

Originally Published