CHICK COREA, ORIGIN, JAZZ KEYBOARDS, "Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Originations: The Music of Chick Corea and Origin
Stretch Records
SCD-9034-2, 2000

This was an idea whose time had come. Nearly every member of
 Chick Corea's Origin has a solo record or two out on Corea's Stretch
label. (Drummer Jeff Ballard's trio project is not far off at the time of 
this writing.) With Origin and on their own, these young players and 
composers have been creating great new music, and it makes perfect 
sense to feature highlights of their work on a compilation disc. 
Serious jazz fans with limited budgets can hear choice bits from six 
albums and decide which ones they might want to explore further. But 
there are a couple of tracks that you'll hear only on the compilation 
itself. One is a nine-minute-plus version of Corea's great modal tune 
"Psalm," a cut that made it onto the Japanese release of Origin's 
latest, Change. The other is an absolutely brilliant piece 
titled "Beat Street," by Jeff Ballard and his trio with tenorist Mark 
Turner and bassist Larry Grenadier. Presumably, this is a sign of 
what's to come from a future Jeff Ballard album, and it's an awfully 
good sign.

As for the chosen tracks, there's "Wigwam" from Origin's Change; "I B 4 U" and "Madrid" from bassist Avishai Cohen's Colors and Adama, respectively; "Turnin' the Corner" and "Roots & Herbs" from altoist Steve Wilson's Passages; "Shadows" and "I'm Old Fashioned" from trombonist Steve Davis's Portrait In Sound; and "Made By Walking" and "Flicks" from tenorist Tim Garland's Made By Walking. Davis's "I'm Old Fashioned" is the only standard in the collection, which is fitting given that Davis travels in more "trad" circles than the others. Still, this medium bright, reharmonized arrangement is quite out of the ordinary, and Steve Nelson's vibes solo is burning. "Roots & Herbs" and "Flicks" are short, evocative snippets, full of unusual sonic and orchestrational choices. Avishai Cohen's pieces are the most boldly eclectic of the batch, with Fender Rhodes textures driving the dance-groove atmosphere of "I B 4 U" and Amos Hoffman's oud lending exotic flavor to "Madrid." Wilson's energetic, uptempo "Turnin' the Corner" is a highlight from one of the top albums of the year, and Garland's soft-toned, highly advanced tenor work on "Made by Walking" is indicative of the many gems from the album of the same name. Corea, it should be noted, is not at all the main piano presence on this compilation: Brad Mehldau, Bruce Barth, Geoff Keezer, David Hazeltine, and Jason Lindner all make strong appearances.

Having made jazz history several times over, Corea has now established himself, in his middle age, as one of the savviest discoverers of new jazz talent. And this while at the helm of one of the best ensembles of his career. The up-and-coming young artists of Origin have surely benefited from their association with Corea, but so has Corea's reputation gained luster through his association with them. ~David R. Adler

Chick Corea & Origin, Change (CD, 70:37); Stretch Records SCD-9023-2, 1999 2635 Griffith Park Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90039 Phone: (925) 682-6770 Cyberhome: If you dig Chick Corea but haven't yet heard Origin, run - don't walk - and pick up this record. And pick up their debut record from last year while you're at it. It's the most exciting stuff Chick has done in years. His bandmates in Origin are primarily young, up-and-coming, straightahead jazz musicians. And that's refreshing. Origin's music is not a mere showcase for hotshot soloists. Chick's last acoustic jazz outing, his Bud Powell tribute band, was wonderful. But in the final analysis, it was a handful of amazing, famous players getting together and playing Bud Powell tunes. Origin has a sound. And it's not a sound you've heard from Chick Corea before, although it bears his unmistakable stamp, and thankfully so. An important facet of Origin's unique sound is its multiple horns. There's Steve Wilson on soprano and alto saxes, clarinet, and flute; Bob Sheppard (yes, he played with Tribal Tech) on tenor sax, bass clarinet, and flute; and Steve Davis on trombone. These combinations of horns call forth some beautiful textures, especially on "Armando's Tango," "L.A. Scenes," and "Home." Other highlights include the shout chorus that sets up Chick's piano solo on "Wigwam," the Kind of Blue-style harmonies of "Early Afternoon Blues," the intricate horn/rhythm section interplay of "Before Your Eyes," and the forceful melody and quasi-chamber music ending of "Awakening." All these guys are strong soloists, of course, but it's the tight horn charts - and the equally tight counterpoint of bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Jeff Ballard - that provide a lot of the excitement on this disc. Overall, it's safe to say this is some of the most ambitious writing of Chick's career. He's outdone himself. Surprises abound: the curious atmosphere of early jazz on the eclectic and contemporary "Armando's Tango"; Chicks's use of the marimba on "Wigwam" and "L.A. Scenes"; the overdubbed handclaps on "Little Flamenco" (the best track on the record, in my opinion); the stop-start form of "The Spinner," a tune that is simply uncategorizable; and the haunting melodies of "Home" and "Night (Lylah)," the latter composed by bassist Cohen. And yet amid all the newness and originality, there are nods to Chick's classic moments: the 3/4 minor blues of "Wigwam" is strongly reminiscent of the "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" era; the use of flute in "Little Flamenco" recalls his work with Joe Farrell and Steve Kujala; and the wonderful grandiosity of "Awakening" is, well, it's pure Chick. There's also a nice piano trio feature, "Compassion (Ballad)," which is based on the standard "It Could Happen To You." Origin played Chick's uptempo arrangement of the standard on its debut record, so "Compassion" is an interesting contrast. Amazingly, all the songs were recorded in Chick's living room with no headphones and no overdubbing, save for the aforementioned handclaps and one marimba part. "All takes are complete takes from beginning to end," writes Chick in the liner notes. The band thus achieves a perfect balance between spontaneity and rehearsed cohesion. It's marvelous to hear, and although Chick has a constant need to Change, let's hope he sticks with this band for a while. ~ David R. Adler


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