Chick Corea Reunites with Fellow Jazz Greats Christian McBride & Brian Blade With ‘Trilogy 2’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

To many casual ears, piano trios are dismissed as “boring.” Perhaps those folks haven’t heard these classics: Bud Powell – The Genius of Bud Powell, Ahmad Jamal’s But Not For Me -At the Pershing, Bill Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Ellington, Mingus/Roach, Brad Mehldau’s Art of the Trio Vol. 3, Oscar Peterson’s Night Train, The Bad Plus’s These Are the Vistas, or Chick Corea’s Trilogy. In fact, the latter won two 2014 Grammys (Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Fingerprints”). Corea fans have been clamoring for a follow-up ever since. So, Trilogy 2  captures recordings from when the trio of Corea, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade reunited for a world tour. Okay, the first one sprawled over three discs while this extends over two. Don’t complain. There’s plenty of in-the-moment jazz and breathtaking interaction and soloing within. And, rather obviously, it’s light years away from being boring.

These three have a sparkling history of playing together, not only in that first trio setting but in the super-group, Corea’s Five Peace Band, with guitarist John McLaughlin and saxophonist Kenny Garrett. Corea describes playing with McBride and Blade as “loose,” casual,” “having an extensive repertoire of songs,” “fun,” and “a new thing every time we approach it.” He could add a whole bunch of others too like “elegant,” “graceful,” “inventive” and “tightly synergistic:. These twelve selections were culled from live performances and engineered by Corea’s longtime partner behind the board, Bernie Kirsh. The material spans the Great American Songbook, jazz classics, Corea originals and tunes from Miles Davis, Joe Henderson and Stevie Wonder. The results are often electrifying (although it is mostly acoustic) and stunning.

They kick off with the standard “How Deep Is the Ocean?” one of only two tracks reprised from the original. For twelve minutes, the trio plumbs and wrings out every note, going deeper and deeper attempting to answer the unanswerable philosophical question. And, next they reach upwards to Corea’s “500 Miles High,” first recorded with first incarnation of his Return to Forever in 1972. There are two other Corea originals – “La Fiesta,” which was also done by that iconic fusion group. Latin is a clear aspect of Corea’s repertoire, as evidenced by his most recent release Antidote by his Spanish Heart Band, also covered on these pages. The other original is “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” the title track to Corea’s first ever trio album recorded in 1968 with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes. This is his first official recording of the tune since then. Both McBride and Blade requested it and it is the lengthiest track.

Another aspect of Corea that’s held true through his storied career is his fondness for Monk, especially as a composer. Two pieces, which are, of course, eccentric (it’s Monk after all) are the favorite of jazz pianists, “Crepuscule with Nellie” and the more obscure “Work,” a tune that also appeared on the first Trilogy. Corea, like many, loves Monk’s quirkiness and finds him fun to play.  That enthusiasm comes through vividly. The unpredictable nature of Monk’s music is counterbalanced by the exquisite, lush balladry of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “But Beautiful” where you hear deft, sensitive brushwork from Blade, a gorgeous Corea solo, and stunning lyricism from McBride. They begin Disc 2 with Steve Swallow’s “Eiderdown,” which features the opposite – explosive, rapid-fire dialogue between Blade and Corea.  

The remaining covers come from Corea’s heroes and/or former bandleaders. Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” comes at the suggestion of Wonder and dates to just a few years ago when Wonder sat in with Corea at L.A.’s Catalina’s and the dinner conversation that ensued afterwards. The two go back to the early ‘70s when Wonder would come to NYC’s Bitter End to hear Return to Forever. “All Blues” from Miles needs little explanation but the slow tempo the trio gives it is enjoyable. The other two owe to Corea’s former bandleader, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. “Serenity” was another McBride suggestion and his robust  solo is a highlight of this smoldering piece. This tune is associated closely by Corea with another tune he played in Henderson’s band, Kenny Dorham’s “Lotus Blossom” which finishes Disc 2 in a flourish.

At 78 Corea sounds as vital as ever and these three are among the very best on their respective instruments. Music doesn’t get any better than this. Rethink your approach to jazz piano trio albums.  Once you hear this one, you’ll likely want to search out those mentioned in the first paragraph and explore even more.

Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide