The Musician is a triple-CD epic (and epoch) summary of Chick Corea’s work. And yet it’s not a greatest-hits album, or even a greatest-hits-live album (though it does include “Light as a Feather,” “Silver Temple” and “Spain”). Taken entirely from Corea’s 2011 70th-birthday residency at the Blue Note in New York, The Musician’s “hits” are his various bands and collaborations over a 50-year career. Among the appearances here are an unplugged version of Return to Forever; duos with Gary Burton, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin and Marcus Roberts; an assemblage of fellow Miles Davis veterans; a flamenco-jazz ensemble; and Corea’s Five Peace and Elektric bands. His Now He Sings, Now He Sobs trio seems the only standout group that isn’t present.
It isn’t missed, however, simply because there’s so much quality material on hand, as well as a surprising amount of new information. Corea doing acoustic renditions of “Feather” and “Captain Marvel” with bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White (and guitarist Frank Gambale, a longtime Elektric Band member) is a genuine revelation: These songs, written in a very specific and much-maligned context, work as straight-ahead jazz. More important, the band has a great time with them; each instrument oozes joy. Ditto his duet with Roberts on “Caravan,” on which both pianists find remarkable levels of detail to portray—and again, have a ball doing it.