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Chick Corea: The Ultimate Adventure

The Ultimate Adventure is Chick Corea’s second straight concept album based on a novel by L. Ron Hubbard. In order to respond to this music with objectivity, it is necessary to separate it from the trash pulp fiction that inspired it.

Easier said than done. Each of the 19 tracks is based on a character or incident from Hubbard’s 1939 novella, and its lurid sensationalism and overall silliness find their way into Corea’s music. “North Africa” and “Arabian Nights” are unintentionally humorous in their overblown stock exoticism.

Various combinations of six excellent drummers are on hand, including Airto Moreira and Steve Gadd. Yet this percussion-dominated album lacks rhythmic urgency, because tightly programmed excitement quickly loses its edge and becomes back fill. Corea, on banks of keyboard instruments, threads clever, ornate melodies through the drum choir. The capable horn players (Hubert Laws and Jorge Pardo on flute, Tim Garland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet) try hard, but are constrained by their assigned roles in Corea’s melodramatic musical script.

No one executes electro-jazz-pop with more sleek precision than Chick Corea. But he thinks L. Ron Hubbard is James Joyce. Hubbard writes comic books without pictures. It is difficult for music, or any attempt at creativity, to survive a miscalculation so drastic.

Originally Published