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Chick Corea/Eddie Gomez/Paul Motian: Further Explorations

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You don’t have to know a lot of jazz history to enjoy Further Explorations, the two-CD live set from Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian. Anyone can hear the graceful lyricism-not just from the pianist but from the bassist and drummer as well. Anyone can hear how that lyricism is tested again and again by disruptive digressions and sneaky shifts in rhythm and harmony, as if the themes were dancers trying to retain their grace on a storm-tossed ship. The result is a great drama: How far can melodic beauty be stretched before it disintegrates?

If you do know your jazz history, however, the pleasures are even greater. Motian was Bill Evans’ drummer from 1959 to 1964, and Gomez was Evans’ bassist from 1966 to 1977. Corea was such an Evans disciple that he sought out jobs in the ’60s with the iconic pianist’s employers Miles Davis and Stan Getz. Corea even wrote a tune called “Bill Evans” and presented the lead sheet to his hero at the Top of the Gate nightclub in the ’70s. Ten of the tracks have direct ties to Evans, being composed by, recorded by or titled after him. All 19, culled from the 24 90-minute sets the trio played in May 2010 at Manhattan’s Blue Note, awaken welcome echoes of the many ties of influence and collaboration among the six men mentioned above. The historical resonance only deepened when Motian died shortly before the release of this album, a project that thus ties the end of his career to its beginning.

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