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Chick Corea: Portraits

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Jelly Roll Morton had his “Finger Breaker,” and so in the same pianistic spirit this two-disc Chick Corea set might as well be subtitled “Genre Buster.” Solo piano recitals are as close as jazz gets to classical music, but Corea has an entirely new slant on those less-than-common proceedings: treat a series of gigs as informal living-room theater, play some cuts, offer up some tributes, share some anecdotes, cast a number of musical impressions, traffic in deadpan wit and assemble a collegial two-hour history-cum-travelogue that makes high art feel downright cozy.

Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and Stevie Wonder are among Corea’s “sitters,” if you will, but rather than provide mere homage, Corea finds new freedoms-of spirit-in the work of each man, which is, of course, the purpose of that pioneering work in the first place. The Monk offering finds Corea teasing out the good-humored wit Monk favored even in what we might regard as his night pieces, and there’s also something delightfully curatorial afoot, the notion that in infusing these sonic canvases with new color, a master is revitilizing other masters as others will hopefully do for him.

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