Chick Corea: Trio Music (ECM 1232/33)

ECM 1232_33

Chick Corea
Trio Music

Chick Corea piano
Miroslav Vitous bass
Roy Haynes drums
Recorded November 1981 at Mad Hatter Studios, Los Angeles
Engineer: Bernie Kirsh
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Trio Music boasts the same formidable lineup—pianist Chick Corea, bassist Miroslav Vitous, and drummer Roy Haynes—as on the seminal Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. Yet formidable is not a word I would use to describe this curious double album, for as many peaks as there are, it is in the valleys where the most potent combinations occur. Half of this diptych is painted by improvisations: five for trio and two for duo. The trios are intense and from the first chart themselves through engaging, if wayward, territory via Haynes’s astute “cymbalism” and Vitous’s determined phonics, all the while enlivened by Corea’s full-on sound. From the thick to the thin of things, the second trio sounds like an infirmed train dreaming in spats of its onetime locomotive glory, while even more fractured affairs await us on the horizon of the third. Some of the more effective comings together can be found on the fourth, as when pointillist pianism sews itself into snare with lightning-fast kinship. The final trio, on the other hand, features a looser, perhaps prepared, piano and amplified arco bass and drums, which after a bit of running around are mixed together in a staccato brew. The two duets between Corea and Vitous are fascinating in and of themselves, winding down their personal rabbit holes with multifarious conviction. The last tune of first disc, “Slippery When Wet,” is exactly that, this one penned by Corea. After some lithe snare work it slides effortlessly into an upbeat swing.

For the second disc, we are treated to a hunk of Monk. Thelonious lives and breathes (he would pass away not three months after this album was recorded) in these hip arrangements. And certainly in “Rhythm-A-Ning” we get to see what this trio is truly capable of, for as intriguing as the improvisations are, there is something transcendent about the ring of their swing in Monk’s world. From these hot threads is spun a lasso that holds our attention with excitement and joy. Haynes, reason enough to buy this album, steals the show here, as also in the ascending quality of “Think Of One” and throughout the inescapable groove of “Hackensack.” Not to be outdone, however, are Vitous, who adds piles of jazz club beauty to “Eronel” and enhances every playful step of “Little Rootie Tootie” with his nimble fingerwork, and the unforgettable Corea, who, as he does in each of these, spreads his warmth and sparkle in turn over the gently burned toast of “’Round Midnight” and “Reflections” with a lushness all his own.

One need hardly expound at such length upon this album. The music speaks with far more eloquence. Highly recommend for the lovely Monk set alone, but give the improvisations a chance, and you will surely find a wealth of colors to explore again and again.

<< Eberhard Weber: Later That Evening (ECM 1231)
>> Everyman Band: s/t (ECM 1234)

Rypdal/Vitous/DeJohnette: To Be Continued (ECM 1192)

ECM 1192

To Be Continued

Terje Rypdal electronic guitars, flute
Miroslav Vitous acoustic and electric bass, piano
Jack DeJohnette drums, voice
Recorded January 1981 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Nearly three years after their first collaboration, Terje Rypdal, Miroslav Vitous, and Jack DeJohnette unwrapped the ghostly sunset that is To Be Continued. The most spine-tingling moments therein thrive at half the speed of life. The intensities of “Maya” must be heard to be believed, for in them we see the night sky in negative image. Likeminded pulchritude prevails in “Topplue, Votter & Skjerf” (Hat, Gloves & Scarf), easily one of Rypdal’s most awesome committed to disc. His hands fade as soon as they are laid, leaving only the trace by which he elicits every note.

Don’t be mistaken, however, in thinking this is another lazy morning session. Rather, it dances to the tune of DeJohnette’s propulsion in “Mountain In The Clouds,” to say nothing of Vitous’s fanciful colors in the title track. For “This Morning” in particular, crosshatched by electric bass and flute, DeJohnette seems to want to draw the others into more finely grained conversations, only to get pixilated versions thereof. Yet these unformed images allow us to supply our own dreams, so that by the time we reach the haunting “Uncomposed Appendix,” in which he sings with and through his piano, we are already converted.

Though the album is brimming with sharp production and electronically enhanced instruments, there is something purely elemental about it. Its stew of metal, wood, and air wafts like the scent of plane trees in summer and leaves a taste of copper in the mouth.

<< John Abercrombie Quartet: M (ECM 1191)
>> Surman/DeJohnette: The Amazing Adventures Of Simon Simon (ECM 1193)

Miroslav Vitous Group: s/t (ECM 1185)

1185 X

Miroslav Vitous Group

Miroslav Vitous bass
John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet
Kenny Kirkland piano
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded July 1980 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This grouping finds Miroslav Vitous in the company of fine musicians, whose idiosyncratic strengths manage to avoid conflict for an unusually engaging, if inconsistent, set. The Czech bassist’s opening tune, “When Face Gets Pale” grasps the tail of a strong melodic serpent, riding through tall grasses and intermittent sunlight. Along with the lively, Arild Andersen-like lead, we are treated to the animations of Kenny Kirkland at the keys—a sound so burnished that the squeal into being of John Surman’s baritone becomes a rupture to be cherished. A fine place to start. Yet unlike many ECM albums, which begin enigmatically before launching into more patently composed material, this is the other half of that swinging door, starting with a full-on group-oriented sound and unraveling itself inside the freer improvisational architecture of “Second Meeting” (and, later, of “Interplay”). Here, bass clarinet is front and center and plays patty-cake with the rhythm section amid some bubbling pianism. Of the latter, we get more in the Kirkland original, “Inner Peace.” Between bass volleys and fluid gestures, Surman’s throaty baritone again paints its corroded beauty across the sky. Everything Surman touches is beautified, and in his one compositional contribution, “Number Six,” we find the album’s most enchanting cartographies. His soprano grabs hold and never lets go for the duration of its wailing journey, while also giving Kirkland plenty of bounce for a swan dive. Vitous, meanwhile, shows just how nimble he can be in “Gears,” while in “Eagle” his classical training comes forth in fluid arco lines.

Though seemingly at odds with critics, and understandably so for its few false steps, this out-of-printer is still solid. By no means essential, but neither one to pass up should the opportunity present itself.

<< Gary Burton Quartet: Easy As Pie (ECM 1184)
>> Eberhard Weber Colours: Little Movements (ECM 1186)

Miroslav Vitous: First Meeting (ECM 1145)

Miroslav Vitous
First Meeting

Miroslav Vitous bass
John Surman soprano saxophone, bass clarinet
Kenny Kirkland piano
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded May 1979 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Leader Miroslav Vitous is the rare bassist who can negotiate both pizzicato and arco techniques with comparable finesse, bringing the latter to bear upon much of what we hear on First Meeting. The contours of the 11-minute “Silver Lake” epitomize the creative span of the ECM label and its ability to bring together complementary talents that might otherwise never have crossed paths. From its frayed beginnings to the fine braid into which it weaves, Vitous’s passionate anchorage finds perfect foils in Kenny Kirkland’s gorgeous arpeggios, Jon Christensen’s ever-delicate cymbals, and the buoyant stylings of John Surman’s soprano. The latter switches over to a rich, chocolaty bass clarinet for the complementary “Recycle.” Like a memory divided down a drummed middle, it is equal parts regret and hope. Moments of skyward abandon dovetail effortlessly into earthbound runs. Kirkland is especially poignant here, seeming to revel in the feeling of soil between his keys, each a toe pressing into the forgiving earth. This ripple effect spreads to Christensen, who nods a brief solo before Vitous sparks a flowering return. Between these juggernauts thrive two rolling pastures. Surman finds palpable symmetry amid Kirkland’s sublime chording in “Beautiful Place To” and shows off his fluttering delicacy in “Trees.” The ad-libbed title track is more tentative. Coalescing into the barest of grooves, it provides a pleasant conduit into the enchanting bass solo that is “Concerto In Three Parts.” By turns tender and enthralling, it sometimes catches itself in rhythmic hooks, but is mostly content to roam a winding path toward “You Make Me So Happy.” This gorgeous burst of jazz synergy has all the makings of a standard and leaves us basking in sugar.

First Meeting is a breath of fresh light, a testament not only to Vitous’s compositional abilities but also to his sensitivity as a collaborator, and is one of many on a label that continues to abide by the excitement of unimaginable adventures. Each of its facets is a window into a deeply beating heart, where only sound is blood and blood is music.

<< Terje Rypdal: Descendre (ECM 1144)
>> Double Image: Dawn (ECM 1146)

Rypdal/Vitous/DeJohnette: s/t (ECM 1125)

ECM 1125

Terje Rypdal/Miroslav Vitous/Jack DeJohnette

Terje Rypdal guitar, guitar synthesizer, organ
Miroslav Vitous double-bass, electric piano
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded June 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Terje Rypdal/Miroslav Vitous/Jack DeJohnette joins its eponymous crew in a one-off trio date for the ages. Although billed as something of a Rypdal venture, the album is primarily a canvas for Vitous, who bubbles forth with all the viscous potency of oil from a crack in the earth. The bassist and Weather Report founder culls from that selfsame influential oeuvre his classic tune, “Will” (a lilting and sentimental ride which made its first appearance on Sweetnighter), and pairs it with “Believer,” another original that is more Rypdal-driven. These two form the heart of a tripartite experience that begins with a pair of Rypdals. The first of these, “Sunrise,” floats in on DeJohnette’s scurrying drums, spurred by the air currents of Rypdal’s Fender Rhodes. Suspended plucking from bass stands out like heat lightning against Rypdal’s grittier monologues. Overdubs balance out the spacious surroundings with their fallow echoes. The guitar dominates here, its trembling accents seeming to grab clouds by their collars and shake them until melodies come falling out in patchy storms. He scrapes his pick along the strings, as if tearing holes in the very fabric of space-time. With respectful stealth, his gorgeous chording in “Den Forste Sne” manages to undercut the bowed bass, the latter recalling the tender songs of David Darling. This one is a stunner in its grandiose intimacy, accentuated all the more by Rypdal’s low-flying passes. We end with a diptych of group improvisations, each the shadow of the other. Between the frenetic syncopations of “Flight” and the pointillism of “Seasons,” we are given plenty of poetry with which to narrate our inner lives.

While, arguably, a pronounced variety of modes would have made this a “stronger” record, it seems content in being the languid organism that it is, and constitutes another enchanting landscape deservedly hung in the hallowed ECM Touchstones gallery. It might not be the best place to start, but what a detour to be had along the way…

<< Steve Kuhn: Non-Fiction (ECM 1124)
>> Art Ensemble of Chicago: Nice Guys (ECM 1126)