Chick Corea – The Vigil (2013)

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With song titles like “Galaxy 32 Star 4,” “Portals To Forever” and “Outside Of Space” and a CD cover of Chick Corea striking a Romantic Warrior pose, The Vigil looks to be a Return To Forever kind of Corea album. And that “Galaxy” song that begins the album features Corea behind his old assortment of circuited keyboards as the band behind him plays shifty rhythms and knotty harmonies with serpentine unison lines.

But drawing comparisons too closely and calling this “Return to Forever, Mk IV” or “Chick Corea Elektric Band, Mk II” oversimplifies the mission and character of Corea’s latest project. While we’ve been absorbing his captivating tribute to Bill Evans with Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian or celebrating his latest encounter with Gary Burton, Corea had assembled a new band comprising of some of the most talented from the current crop of the up and comers in the jazz scene, hitting the club circuit with this band and getting down the rapport, developing their own language. The next step was to go into the studio and make a record with new Corea compositions.

Corea composed these seven songs with this combo in mind, a parallel one can draw with his prior fusion bands, but also the very reason why this band, also called The Vigil, is not quite like them, either. Made up of Charles Altura (electric and acoustic guitars), Tim Garland (woodwinds, flute), Hadrien Feraud (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums), these guys aren’t the speed demons Corea once had with DiMeola, Clarke, Weckl and the like, but they’re highly nuanced players who can dig deep into a song and come up with their own complex, harmonic shapes in subtle but satisfying ways. The teamwork is as good as it gets for a Corea-led band, too. “Portals To Forever” is a fine example of all that; Gilmore’s layered rhythm making is the stuff of elite drummers, the give and take among Corea, Altura and Garland is intricate and extemporaneous but never cluttered. Feraud’s clearly delineated bass lines forge a path down which everything else can safely follow through Corea’s twisting, adventurous melodic progression. Is it fusion? Or is it straight jazz? The band makes that question irrelevant.

“Planet Chia” is nearly all acoustic, save for Feraud’s bass, a busy, Latin-flavored rhythm but with Corea making some different kind of chord changes than he’s been know to make in the past; a modern harmony that bears the mark of a composer adjusting his style to his ensemble’s own styles. “Royalty,” inspired by Chick’s old drummer Roy Haynes, is played with a waltz and a descending chord figure that vaguely calls to mind when Corea and Haynes were doing that for 1968’s “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” but with a lighter touch, in spite of there being two more performers involved. “Outside of Space” features Corea’s longtime wife Gayle Moran Corea, and the ethereal approach Corea takes to incorporating a vocal here is much the same way he did it with Flora Purim during the RTF, Mk. I days.

Corea pays tribute to John Coltrane for “Pledge for Peace,” and does it in more ways than one. Recorded live, “Pledge” includes Stanley Clarke on bass while Coltrane’s son Ravi joins in on sax. For much of the song there’s a crisp swing and Corea stretches out. Solos by Feraud (on electric bass), Stanley Clarke (acoustic bass) and Coltrane follow, ending with a kind of free flowing spiritual passage that’s clearly motivated by “A Love Supreme.”

Corea mans a Rhodes and a Moog for “Legacy,” combining nicely with Feraud’s palpitating bass, but Gilmore’s madly swinging drums refuses to let the song move far from tradition, and instant bop unison lines seem to pop up from nowhere.

Chick Corea has been around a long time and is getting advanced in age, but he shows with The Vigil that he can still make very youthful music. It also didn’t hurt that he formed a youthful band and let their younger selves rub off on him a little bit.

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The Vigil went on sale August 6, courtesy of Concord Music Group.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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