Release date: April 29, 2002
Following Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek’s own selected recordings, both of which were two-disc epics, pianist Chick Corea is represented via the third :rarum release in a single CD packed to the gills with material. The projects, and tracks culled from them, should be no surprise to even the fair-weather Corea listener. The 1972 classic Return To Forever is effortlessly represented by two songs. “Sometime Ago” introduces one of the most iconic bands in the ECM spectrum, with Corea on electric piano, Joe Farrell on flute, Flora Purim on vocals, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Airto Moreira on drums. Purim’s voice is a charm in and of itself, and Farrell’s flute sunshine incarnate. “La Fiesta” opens the door to another realm of infinite daylight, and comprises as brilliant an introduction as one could hope to find for Corea’s quasi-mystical warmth.
The obvious next step is 1973’s Crystal Silence, for which he joined forces with vibraphonist Gary Burton. Whether reading each other’s minds in “Desert Air” or unpacking deeper wisdom from the RTF staple “What Game Shall We Play Today,” they are like two halves of a deck perfectly riffle-shuffled together. But for me their 1980 live album In Concert, Zürich holds up to our ears the clearest lens into their rapport. In “Tweak,” for instance, their sound is even more expansive than in the studio, and in “Mirror, Mirror” they treat virtuosity not as a means of showing off but as a confirmation of life itself.
For an even deeper mind meld, one need only dive into 1982’s Trio Music. Alongside bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes, Corea committed some of my favorite music by him to record. Though I thoroughly enjoy this studio session, including the wonderful collective improvisations, and ranging from the lyrical embrace of “Eronel” to the controlled fire of “Rhythm-A-Ning,” it’s in 1986’s Trio Music, Live In Europe (one of my all-time favorites of the entire ECM catalog) that his highest potential is reached. “I Hear A Rhapsody” stops and starts with ease, then ushers in the rhythm section with delight into a bright and open dynamic surpassed perhaps only by Keith Jarrett’s perennial trio. “Summer Night / Night And Day” is another riff on circadian rhythms and finds Corea activating Haynes (or is it the other way around?) as night renders stars visible. In this context, Corea was capable of eliciting vibrational truths, leaping temporarily beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity. Such was his genius during this golden age to take small elements and draw connections between them that others would either miss or never even consider possible.