Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chick Corea - Early Circle (Blue Note, 1992)

Although credited to composer and pianist Corea, this was a collective super-group that only lasted a short period of time. Apart from Corea who made some of his most avant-garde music in this group are multi-reedist Anthony Braxton, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul. Much of the music here is freely improvised and quite experimental, and I had the sense that it was probably a little more interesting to play than to listen to. That said, the first two performances are actually quite interesting and enjoyable. "Starp" and "73 Degrees Kelvin" have all the hallmarks of Braxton's most accessible music, with his free-bopping saxophone that is rooted in Parker and Dolphy and an impish elastic sense of time. Things got a little more difficult for me after this. As I have mentioned before, slow and abstract improvisation throws me for a loop, and the majority of the rest of the disc was in this vein. The accurately titled "Ballad" has some slow sweet flute and guitar before Corea's piano comes in and takes things into non-concrete territory. Two short piano and bass duets follow, with free and spontaneous improvisation flowing between Corea and Holland. Clarinet and piano duets follow, flowing between philosophical and wild eyed. "Chimes I" and "Chimes II" add unusual bell like percussion as the name implies, and underpins it with some plinking and plunking piano and bowed bass. "Percussion Piece" wraps things up with more of the same, bells, chimes and vibes. Apart from the first two performances here, the music was a little too theoretical and indefinite for my taste. Die hard fans of this group or of the individual musicians may find otherwise, but this one didn't grab me.
Early Circle -

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