Jazz CD Reviews
Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian – Further Explorations – Concord Jazz
Published on December 18, 2011
Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian – Further Explorations [1/17/12] – Concord Jazz CJA-33364-02, (2 CDs) 73:31; 63:21 ****1/2:
(Chick Corea – piano, producer; Eddie Gomez – bass; Paul Motian – drums)
The two-CD live trio release, Further Explorations, was produced to celebrate Bill Evans’ music and life (as well as jazz in general). Pianist Chick Corea is a superb choice for this project. Although Corea has done free jazz, fusion, jazz-rock, Latin jazz and classical recordings, Evans has been a deep influence on Corea. While Corea evokes Evans’ style and panache on this live material, he retains his own creativity, and is suitably supported by drummer Paul Motian (who worked with Evans from 1956-1963) and bassist Eddie Gomez (who performed in the Bill Evans Trio from 1966-1977). But events changed between the timeframe when these tracks were recorded during a May, 2010 two-week run at the Blue Note in New York City (the concert dates approximately coincide with the 50th anniversary of Evans’ 1961 Explorations long player) and the issue of Further Explorations. Motian (who participated on Explorations) passed away November 22, 2011, thus Further Explorations is also a de facto remembrance of Motian’s astute rhythmic expertise.
There is much to enjoy among the 19 tracks which total nearly 2 ½ hours. There are tunes penned by Evans (“Peri’s Scope,” “Turn Out the Stars” and the never-heard-before “Song No. 1,” transcribed especially for this outing by Corea); pieces connected to Evans (“Alice in Wonderland,” “But Beautiful” and “Gloria’s Step”); and trio originals written by each member as a tribute or in the spirit of Evans (including Corea’s “Bill Evans” and Motian’s “Mode VI”). The threesome starts off with a fresh reading of “Peri’s Scope,” which focuses on spontaneity rather than on a set arrangement: it’s effortlessly lively and thankfully not as outside as it might have turned out to be. Gomez walks his bass lines with verve, Motian swings with atypical fervor, and Corea tickles the keys with brio.
Corea is memorable during the solo introduction to “Gloria’s Step” and on “Song No. 1,” which was discovered by archivist Frank Fuchs. During the concerts, the composition was gradually transformed from something formalist to the fully-developed version heard here, with a sublime melody presented by Corea and Gomez, while Motian supplies persuasive brushwork. Corea’s “Bill Evans” has a somewhat drifting quality which complements Corea’s nature but at times it seems less penetrating than other pieces. The trio closes the first disc with an eccentric, willfully contrary rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Little Rootie Tootie.” While Evans covered Monk during his career, it is unlikely he got anywhere near to the roguish poise and exuberance which highlights what Motian, Gomez and Corea display.
While “Little Rootie Tootie” only has a slice of bebop, Todd Dameron’s “Hot House” (which opens CD 2) definitely has a post-war kick, which showcases how Bud Powell’s musical vocabulary has impacted Corea’s approach. Gomez and Motian also demonstrate their adventurous rhythmic skills in a fiery trio experience. Another fine excursion is a lengthy run through “Turn Out the Stars,” which commences with Gomez utilizing arco to create a moody aesthetic subsequently matched by Corea’s supple piano notes and Motian’s cymbals. The perceptive harmonics here effectively mirror what Evans constructed on many of his works. Slightly less successful are the trio’s translations of “Mode VI” and Corea’s “Rhapsody.” While Motian’s rhythmic coloring and percussive hues during “Mode VI” is a highpoint, Corea’s abstracted playing on both detracts from the flow, although Corea and Gomez are enticingly emphatic during “Rhapsody.” Further Explorations concludes with a two-part adaptation of “But Beautiful,” which exhibits more of Gomez’s stirring arco flourishes on the unaccompanied first section and then there is a stimulating trio exposition for the longer second section, which slides into a roused take of Gomez’s “Puccini’s Walk,” which provides an enlivening wind-up.
CD1: Peri’s Scope; Gloria’s Step; They Say that Falling In Love Is Wonderful; Alice in Wonderland; Song No. 1; Diane; Off the Cuff; Laurie; Bill Evans; Little Rootie Tootie.
CD2: Hot House; Mode VI; Another Tango; Turn Out the Stars; Rhapsody; Very Early; But Beautiful—Part 1; But Beautiful—Part 2; Puccini’s Waltz.
– Doug Simpson