JJ 05/94: Chick Corea – The Leprechaun, Tap Step, The Seventies

Thirty years ago, Mark Gilbert concluded that the good of Corea comfortably out­weighed the bad or indifferent. First published in Jazz Journal May 1994

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The Leprechaun, first issued in 1976, is a closely written pro­gramme album inspired, if that’s the right word, by the little people at the bottom of the garden. It’s pervaded and finally submerged by precious evocations of Faerie, but this doesn’t preclude pas­sages of robust jazz, notably on Lenore, a rocking samba pro­pelled with typical crispness by Steve Gadd, and Nite Sprite, where a weak start gives way to a rollicking funk groove reminis­cent of the looser moments of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters band. Elsewhere there are good, isolated solo statements by Corea, Farrell, Gomez and – momentarily saving the postur­ing title track – Bill Watrous, but the cumulative impression is of a grandiloquent lapse of taste.

There’s much more jazz on Tap Step, the top-heavy orchestrations and sterile programmaticism of The Leprechaun generally supplanted by unclut­tered, loosely written small-group Latin jazz with the empha­sis on improvisation. Three tracks are vocal features, and the worst of these is the Vocoder-led Grandpa Blues, but Samba LA is a harmless, high-spirited Latin carnival piece, and well over half of The Embrace is an instrumen­tal prelude to a brief and compar­atively painless love song rendered by Gayle Moran. The rest are all instrumental, Tap Step a Breckerish bop-funk line, Magic Carpet a glowering two-chord Latin vamp with piano solo, The Slide an outstanding 10/4 Latin vamp driven to a magnificent cli­max by the percussion of Moreira and Oliveira, and Flamenco one of Corea’s typically fastidious Spanish paraphrases.

Although Corea’s eclecticism might be taken to imply both cyn­ical opportunism and butterfly inconsistency, the wide-ranging Compact Jazz compilation turns out to be the most rewarding of these three CDs. The full gallery of Corea’s seventies musical personae is represented here, from the virtuoso high-voltage fusion of The Game Maker (with some still impressive trading between Corea and the often unfairly derided Al Di Meola), to the light yet rich Flora-Purim-led samba You’re Everything, the sinewy, bop-inspired acoustic fusion of Humpty Dumpty (with Joe Farrell on top form), the modal jazz of Windows and the classical tokenism of Bartok’s Ostinato, a duet with Herbie Hancock. Even allowing that this is a strong selection, it suggests that the good of Corea comfortably out­weighs the bad or indifferent. Nite Sprite and Night Sprite, by the way, are the same track, dif­ferently spelt.

Discography
THE LEPRECHAUN
Imp’s Welcome; Lenore; Reverie; Looking At The World; Nite Sprite; Soft And Gentle; Pixiland Rag; Leprechaun’s Dream (38.05)
Collective personnel: Danny Cahn; John Gatchell, Bob Millikan (t); Wayne Andre, Bill Watrous (tb); Joe Farrell (reeds); Chick Corea (kyb, pc); Annie Kavafian, Ida Kavafian (vn); Louise Shulman (vla); Fred Sherry (clo); Eddie Gomez (b); Anthony Jackson (elb); Steve Gadd (d); Gayle Moran (v). 1975, prob­ably Los Angeles.
TAP STEP
Samba LA; The Embrace; Tap Step; Magic Carpet; The Slide; Grandpa Blues; Flamenco (41.41)
Collective personnel: Corea (kyb, pc); Flora Purim, Gayle Moran, Shelby Flint, Nani Villa Brunel (v); Hubert Laws (f, picc); Joe Henderson (ts); Joe Farrell (ts, ss); Al Vizzutti (t, flh); Bunny Brunel (b); Jamie Faunt, Stanley Clarke (b); Tom Brechtlein (d); Airto Moreira, Laudir Oliveira, Don Alias (pc). Los Angeles, December 1979-January 1980.
THE SEVENTIES
(1) Beyond The Seventh Galaxy; (2) The Game Maker; (3) Night Sprite; (4) You’re Everything; (5) Humpty Dumpty; (6) Lenore; (7) Night Streets; (8) The One Step; (9) Windows; (10) Ostinato; (11) Butterfly Dreams; (12) Where Have I Known You Before? (63.09)
Corea (kyb or p) plus:
(1) Al Di Meola (elg); Stanley Clarke (elb); Lenny White (d). New York, July or August 1974.
(2) Bill Connors (g, elg); Clarke (elb); White (d). New York, August 1973.
(3) Joe Farrell (ss, engh, f); Anthony Jackson (elb); Steve Gadd (d). 1975.
(4) Farrell (f); Clarke (b); Airto Moreira (pc); Flora Purim (v). London, October 1972.
(5) Farrell (ts); Eddie Gomez (b); Gadd (d). Burbank, Ca, 1978.
(6) Gadd (d); Gayle Moran (v). 1975.
(7) Stuart Blumberg, John Rosenberg, John Thomas (t); Ron Moss (tb); Clarke (elb); Gadd (d); Don Alias (pc). Burbank, October 1976.
(8) Farrell (as); Gomez tb); Gadd (d). Burbank, 1978.
(9) Stan Getz (ts); Ron Carter (b); Grady Tate (d). New Jersey, March 30, 1967.
(10) Herbie Hancock (p). Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1978.
(11) Arthur Webb (f); Pat Martino (elg); Clarke (b); White (d); Andy Bey (v). New York, December 26 or 27, 1972.
(12) Corea only (p). New York, July or August 1974.
(Verve 517 952-2)