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Chick Corea & Béla Fleck: The Enchantment

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Although this musical collaboration by pianist Chick Corea and banjoist Béla Fleck is pleasant enough on the surface, it suffers from an uncomfortable, oil-and-water conflict in the admixture, particularly when the pair works over tunes written by Fleck. When they play Corea’s material the two seem mostly in accord, although Fleck is more adaptable, an essential element in duet get-togethers. The pianist’s previous duo efforts in the jazz vein-notably with Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock-largely succeeded because the musicians shared a predisposition toward jazz. That is not the case in this outing: Although Fleck does incorporate jazz into the eclectic music he makes with his band the Flecktones, it is not his regular beat, and that shows here.

Fleck and Corea have worked together on previous album projects, but this is their first full-scale effort at dueting. The blend fits on the opening “Senorita” by Corea and continues to work with Fleck’s “Spectacle,” then spins somewhat aimlessly on the pianist’s “Joban Dna Nopia.” The most notable flaws are on the banjoist’s “Mountain,” on which Corea seems out of his element. Corea’s “Children’s Song No. 6” works well, but “A Strange Romance,” the first of three consecutive Fleck tunes, after a promising beginning, turns too delicate and ultimately goes the way of baroque parlor music. Fleck’s “Menagerie” and “Waltse for Abby” find the pair in an adequate zone. “Brazil,” the only work not written by either participant, goes nowhere, but at least does so in a fairly attractive fashion. The title track by Corea and Fleck’s “Sunset Road” are fitting closers, in a somewhat similar mood. “A Strange Romance” might have been a better album title than The Enchantment.