"Perhaps inevitably I’m left feeling that the youthful urgency of his work from the 1960’s, when the stakes were much higher, should be preferred to such a cosy commemoration".
This snippet seems to sum up my feelings about this Grammy Award winning project, and it describes a tendency amongst musicians that seems to be all too common. Starting out brimming with energy and ideas, somewhere along the line, after they've made it big, will come the Liberace lobotomy. Florid, ornate, 'look at me guys' playing just doesn't do it for me, I'm afraid.
Perhaps it's easier to name those whose work bucks the trend and remains vital throughout their career. That said, there was still much to enjoy here, even if ultimately its only lasting impact was to make me go back to the '60s and '70s to hear the real deal...
Rendezvous In New York
STRETCH RECORDS (038023-2)
Armando’s Rhumba; Blue Monk; Concierto De Aranjuez; Matrix; Glass Enclosure; Tempus Fugit; Crystal Silence; Bessies Blues; Autumn Leaves; Armando’s tango; Concierto De Aranjuez; Lifeline; Quartet No 2 Part 1.
Terence Blanchard (t); Steve Davis (tb); Steve Wilson (as); Michael Brecker (ts), Joshua Redman (ts); Tim Garland (ts); Gary Burton (vib); Chick Corea (p); Gonzalo Rubalcaba (p); Miroslav Vitous (b); Christian McBride (b); John Patitucci (b); Avishai Cohen (b); Eddie Gomez (b); Roy Haynes (d); Steve Gadd (d); Dave Weckl (d); Jeff Ballard (d); Bobby McFerrin (voc). Recorded 12/01.
Culled from over 60 hours of performances by nine different groups at New York’s Blue
Note club on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Rendezvous In New York is an appealing idea. Corea is one of jazz’s key players and certainly worthy of such extravagance, even though his ‘elektric’ phase may have terminally alienated many purists.
The accent here is very much on the ‘akoustic’ side of his work, with most of his career landmark groups specially reformed. Even when unplugged, however, Corea emerges as a player you must accept warts and all. Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was one of the finest Blue Notes of the late ‘60s, and Vitous and Haynes are reunited with the pianist for a spirited reprisal of ‘Matrix’. Certainly one of the set’s highlights, Corea shows that he’s lost none of his flair for energetic soloing, though it is interesting to note how much more conservative he’s become over the years. Nothing is included here by Circle, for example, an important group that uncannily anticipated European chamber-improv.
Whether deliberate or not, a whole chapter of his acoustic career is effectively skipped. The dominant mode is now uptempo and latin-tinged, making the duets with Gary Burton and Gonzalo Rubalcaba a welcome respite from the overabundant musical bravado. The irrepressible Akoustic Band with Patitucci and Weckl do make a virtue out of virtuosity, however, successfully translating the flamboyance of the fusion years into a more traditional setting.
The Remembering Bud Powell ensemble, where Blanchard is sensational, serve hard blowing from the old school that will satisfy most tastes. Three duets with Bobby McFerrin are, for me at least, a yet to be acquired taste, whilst the material played by latter day ensemble ‘Origin’ is a reminder of Corea’s irritating tendency to floridly overplay his hand.
Perhaps inevitably I’m left feeling that the youthful urgency of his work from the 1960’s, when the stakes were much higher, should be preferred to such a cosy commemoration. Yet with so many projects contained beneath one roof, beautiful packaging and rich SACD sound, this collection is nevertheless a useful stock-take on a bona fide jazz superstar, and a must-have for his considerable fan base.
(Jazz Review, August 2003)