Thursday, October 08, 2015

Chick Corea and Bela Fleck Two

What at first sight might seem like an unlikely pairing of talents, Chick Corea and Bela Fleck, developed into one of the most musical collaborations. Both are major talents on their instrument; Corea on piano and keyboards and Fleck on the banjo. It was Corea who recruited Fleck for an album "The Enchantment" and now Concord has just issued a double CD, "Two," taken from a variety of performances from their eight years of touring together which includes songs from that album and others.

The two perform a variety of songs from both performers' pen on the over two hours of music to be heard. There is plenty of Corea's romanticism and the strong Spanish flavor of his music mixed with Fleck's remarkable banjo playing that goes far beyond his early days in the New Grass Revival. Listening to the exuberance and exhilaration of their musical conversations starting with Corea's flamenco-infused "Senorita," one is struck by the sheer joy and fun they are having without losing the focus of what they are playing. Listening to Fleck here, I might suggest it is not far removed from those Brazilian mandolin players who played such a significant role in 'choro' music, and certainly his mix of banjo runs which slapped notes while Corea dances on the keyboard. In contrast "Waltze For Abby" is a lovely ballad Fleck wrote for his wife during which Corea's restraint and use of silence during much of this merits attention.

The pair's interpretation of the Latin classic "Brazil" opens with a dreamy prelude hinting at the musical theme before the tempo heats up and \ Corea plays the theme with Fleck coloring it and then improvising as Corea imaginatively comps before taking his own spirited lead. Another ballad, "The Enchantment," contrasts with its measured and sober playing and there is a lovely performance of French composer Andre Dutilleux's "Prelude En Berceuse (From Au Gré Des Ondes)" followed by the unusual twist and turns in their handling of Corea's "Children's Song No. 6," the longest performance here. While it is over 14 minutes, the inventiveness of the two sustain one's attention throughout with the performance becoming more spirited as it progresses.

The closing rendition of Corea's iconic "Armando's Rhumba," may be relatively brief, but ends this recording on a strong, euphoric manner that was deservedly received with great enthusiasm. "Two" is one a several extraordinary recent recordings by Corea in a very short time and one has no doubt there will be more superb outings featuring him in the near future. This also will enhance Bela Fleck's well deserved reputation as well.

I received my review copy from the record label. Here is a clip of the two in performance.

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