Corea-Gomez-Motian, Further Explorations
Chick Corea's Further Explorations (Concord), with Eddie Gomez on bass and Paul Motian on drums, is my favorite jazz album of the year so far. I've played it maybe 20 times since I got an advance copy a few months ago.
It's a two-disc set, taken from two weeks of sessions at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village (one of which I raved over in this space at the time, back in May 2010). The gig was hawked as a Bill Evans tribute (the title is a spin on Evans' 1959 album Explorations), but that told only the half of it.
Evans covers dominated the sets, but there were also originals, improvs, and pieces by Monk and more. And the playing was just stunning: Corea, the insouciant virtuoso, gliding across the keyboard, finding odd harmonies and piquant rhythms, not making too much of it but making them dazzle all the more; Gomez, anchoring time while also plucking and sliding around it in a fever pitch; and Motian...ah, Motian.
Paul Motian died last November at the age of 80he's still much missedand the night I saw him with this trio was hair-raising: splashing the cymbals, segueing from swishing the snare to pounding it in 4/4 to sniping in and out and through rhythms, real and invented, yet somehow holding it all together. Just amazing.
The CD captures it all. The sound by engineer Bernie Kirsh is terrific, especially Motian's drumkit: the tonal colors of each piece, the eye-blinking dynamic range. The disc starts with "Peri's Scope," an upbeat number from the '59 album. Compare the two, especially Motian's performance (he was also on the original). He was so much more adventurous, at once wild and precise, at age 79 than he'd been at 27. Amazing. Gomez's bass is properly plucky. Corea's piano is spread too wide across the soundstage, but not annoyingly so, and is otherwise quite nice: percussive and warm.
Two complaints: First, a few of the tracks on Disc 2 are a bit scribbly, which makes my other gripe more poignant: in my blog posting on the live set, I singled out the performances of "Waltz for Debbie," "My Foolish Heart," and "My Ship." None of them made it onto either of these discs. Maybe when Mosaic puts out the "complete" boxed set a decade from now.