Thursday, October 09, 2003

Chick Corea – Rendezvous in New York (Stretch, 2003)

Rendezvous in New York is a two-disc set of Chick in different duo and ensemble formats in a string of concerts to celebrate his 60th birthday. The set starts on a bit of a wrong foot for me with three rather lengthy tracks with Chick and Bobby McFerrin. I’m afraid that I’ve never had much patience for jazz singers (blues belters are quite another matter) and as interesting as McFerrin’s vocal gymnastics may be, I cannot warm to him. He takes the lead scatting on an abstract version of Blue Monk – Carmen NcRae aside, Monk is tough enough to play, let alone sing!

Things improve considerably when McFerrin leaves the bandstand. Roy Haynes and Miroslav Vituous remake some of a Chick’s trio music from the 70’s with a stirring version of Matrix, and then the band that put out the Chick Corea and Friends Remembering Bud Powell disc a few years ago, with Terence Blanchard replacing Wallace Roney. The band just rips through a medley of Glass Enclosure and Tempus Fugit, and it is a highlight of the first disc. Things mellow out a little bit with a duo performance with Gary Burton on Cyrstal Silence. Things move to a galloping conclusion on the first disc with a performance by the Akoustic Band of John Coltrane’s Bessie’s Blues.

Disc 2 picks up where the Akoustic band left off, with a nice version of Autumn Leaves, which was a mainstay of the Akoustic Band’s set lists back during their Grammy winning heyday. It’s interesting to see that the Elektric Band is not represented on these discs at all, one has to wonder if Chick is going the route of another Miles Davis alum, Keith Jarrett, and renouncing electric instruments altogether…

There’s a nice version of Armando’s Tango with the Origin group which has been the vehicle for some of Corea’s finest music of late. Excellent solos abound. A bit of a surprise after that, in the form of a piano duet performance of Concerto De Aranjuez, with Gonzalo Rubalcaba instead of longtime piano duet partner Herbie Hancock. It’s a very pretty performance.

The very successful second disc ends with performances of Lifeline with Corea’s current trio (Cohen and Ballard) and of Quartet Number 2 Part 1 (old confederates Brecker, Gomez and Gadd returning to the fold.) The music is quite nice and the crowd appreciates what the band is putting down.

All in all this was a successful release and continues Chick Corea’s string of winning acoustic albums. Where the mix ‘n match nature of the ensembles may throw off the continuity of the music and the lack of any electric fusion may keep this from being a true career overview, it’s still fine music and an excellent snapshot of where Chick Corea stands now as a jazz musician.

Rating: 7.5

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