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Chick Corea was so prolific that it’s practically human nature to overlook some of the 100 albums he created with his myriad projects. Now, following the iconic pianist/composer’s death in February, anything left in the vault is a treasure — especially the live double-disc recording of a 2018 performance by his self-titled Akoustic Band with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. The simpatico rhythm section was originally culled from the larger Chick Corea Elektric Band in the late 1980s, yet this trio always proved capable of energetic wattage regardless of instrumentation.
Corea’s opening “Morning Sprite” is the same track that closed this ensemble’s last live album, Alive, from 1991. The pianist’s unaccompanied introduction sounds even more joyous than on previous recordings and is subsequently energized by Weckl’s rimshots and Patitucci’s middle break. It’s a recurring and welcome theme through Corea’s buoyant “Japanese Waltz,” with Weckl deftly switching between brushes and drumsticks and Corea answering Patitucci’s lines during his solo; a trio of standards (“That Old Feeling,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Summer Night”); and the seven-and-a-half-minute Disc One closer “Humpty Dumpty,” repeated on Disc Two in a longer and even more playful form.
The second disc also features Patitucci’s gorgeous, viola-sounding bowed intro to Corea’s “Eternal Child”; the pianist’s inventive take on Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood”; and a show-stopping finale of the original “You’re Everything.” Initially sung by Flora Purim on Return to Forever’s second release, 1973’s Light As a Feather, this version features Corea’s wife (and former Mahavishnu Orchestra band member) Gayle Moran Corea on vocals. The piece starts out as a four-minute duet between the couple before Patitucci and Weckl kick into six minutes of overdrive that culminates in the singer’s near impossibly long final note. Live albums should make listeners wish they’d been present; poignantly, LIVE also makes anyone who hears it wish its architect were still here.— Bill Meredith
Featured photo by Toshi Sakurai