Corea Piano Concerto; Spain
Chick Corea has the rock-solid ability to do all the things the cross-genre dabblers cannot. He writes and arranges for symphony orchestra with primary-source expertise, yet the jazz ensembles at the centres of these pieces nestle there snugly and precisely. He manages the music’s elegant internal transitions with assured grace, allowing thematic material to be transferred between the full orchestra, individual sections, the core ensemble and soloists with none of the juddering collisions which often mar this jazz-concerto grosso approach.
He does not need to make lame, second-hand musical references, being entirely at ease with his music’s sources - classical, jazz, Latin, Moorish, flamenco. Both of these compositions are an absolute joy to hear. The theme of Spain is expressed with all the vivacity one would expect of the subject, but with no reliance on cliches or atmospheric padding. The second, despite the inevitable liberties taken with the received tradition of the concerto, crams an endless stream of lively invention into a clear, forthright structure, with Corea clearly taking great delight in both the freedom and the discipline of the form. The only comparison that comes to mind is Villa-Lobos, although even this is more a matter of spirit than technical minutiae. Without needing to rely on irony, simplistic pomposity or tin-eared attempts to force-feed musical genres one with another, this recording expertly unites some of the best aspects of the musical diversity of this century. I can think of no better example to carry with us into the next.'