JJ 01/73: Chick Corea – Piano Improvisations Vol. 2

Fifty years ago, Barry McRae found in Corea brilliance alongside cocktail piano and pain­ful theatricality. First published in Jazz Journal January 1973

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There are some pianists who function very much better without rhythmic assistance. There are others for whom the discipline of working with bass and drums acts as a help if not actually a support. On the strength of this album Corea comes strictly under the second category. In his weakest moments there has always been a suggestion that his romanticism brings him near to the threshold of the cocktail lounge. The three ballads that open side one are all in that area and Song For Thad actually crosses it.

Yet Corea is an enigmatic man. Masqualero begins as a pleasing bounce but progresses into a brilliant outpour­ing in which the pianist’s formidable technique is used rather than paraded. Even more striking are Preparation 1, on which he plays with considerable invention as well as power and purpose, and Trinkle Tinkle which is the only track to make use of the freedom avail­able. While most of the titles suggest that Corea heard a rhythmic (bass) pulse in his head, this one embarks on a policy of metric denials if not outright arhythmic extravagance.

Side Two is interesting because it has the feeling of an integrated suite. The logical progression from Arrival to Scenery is blatant but there is a gener­ally programmatic development about the whole piece. Planet Earth supports this theory although it is, in itself, pain­fully theatrical. In one passage the sus­taining pedal is held and the bass rumbled until the listener is transported into the soundtrack of a science-fiction film. With Corea’s affirmed policy of entertaining, this may well be by design, although it is disappointing in a player capable of performing as he does on Preparation 1.

Discography
After Noon Song; Song For Lee Lee; Song For Thad; Trinkle Tinkle; Masqualero (15 min) – Preparation 1; Preparation 2; Departure From Planet Earth; A New Place – 1) Arrival 2) Scenery 3) Imps Walk 4) Rest (24¼ min)
Chick Corea (pno). Oslo, 21-22/4/71.
(ECM1020 £2.45)