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The Chick Corea Songbook

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Album Review

It would be challenging for any ensemble to reinterpret the music of Chick Corea, but adding a larger vocal component did not deter the Manhattan Transfer in their attempt. Where the group picked some famous material, new pieces, and a few obscurities, this is not a comprehensive look at Corea's book. What the ensemble does offer is a wide-ranging view of Corea's more Latin-oriented themes, a few of the keyboardist's true cherry songs, and an expansion of where Corea's music might go if enhanced by a choir. Since Flora Purim and Gayle Moran are the only significant singers to grace Corea's music over the decades, their soaring presence has to be addressed, not to mention that the Transfer's vaunted, richly harmonic acumen is clearly present and accounted for. With assistance from keyboardist and music director Yaron Gershovsky and many guest instrumentalists (including Christian McBride, Edsel Gomez, John Benítez, and Vince Cherico), the group brings these tunes to life in a new reality. As might naturally be expected, Al Jarreau's lyrics to "Spain" show up, albeit three times — in an adaptation of "I Can Recall" in a funky, plodding beat much slower than the original; the new composition, a five-minute "Free Samba" in choral carnival style with some counterpoint, English prose, and Corea alongside Airto joining in; and an inflated, extended version that allows everyone to fully stretch out. Pianist/arranger Fred Hersch appears on the excellent "Time's Lie" with Tim Hauser taking center stage on Neville Potter's lyric, while the kiddish "Children's Song #1" has lyrics by Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne in layers of counterpoint. "Children's Song #15" is much more spare, with Lou Marini's flute and Joe Passaro's marimba shading a one-minute wordless vocal. Then there's the most well-revered "500 Miles High," as rich angelic voices reach for the heavens in wordless refrains holding tension and a modicum of energy, again quite unlike the initial famous version done by Return to Forever with Purim. In a minimalist 6/8 metered mode, "Another Roadside Attraction" is warmer and percussion-driven, while Hauser again steps away from the others for his wordsmithing during "One Step Closer," a swinger with finger snaps and the whistling of Hi-Lo's veteran Don Shelton. A take on "Armando's Rhumba" retitled "The Story of Anna & Armando" for Corea's parents has Siegel's delightful lead extravagantly expressing gratitude. As ambitious as this project is, with Corea's full blessing and endorsement, it falls short of being essential. Nonetheless, it is pleasing from start to finish, quaint and charming in its own way. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Good Job!

I haven't been particularly interested in Chick Corea since Flora Purim left Return To Forever but this is a trippy record and I mean that as a compliment.

Nice to have something new by the MT to listen to

It's jazzy, breezy, and very enjoyable! And it's more contemporary sounding than some of their effots in recent years. Their voices are in excellent form, and they benefit from impeccable timing and styling. A beautiful album!

Fabutastic, Beautiful, Really Real

I just love this, all of it, every track! I love tight swooping harmonic vocals anyway so I have admired Manhattan Transfer since their beginning. I also loved Chick's Light as a Feather album on the ECM label waaay back and almost everything up to now so this album is a no brainer for me.

But still, I was very pleasantly surprised at the passion and love Manhattan Transfer showed here for Chick's music and I haven't stopped playing it over and over for the last two days, getting deeper and deeper into the music and feeling the love expressed here.

Thank you MT, thank you!! -ken


Formed: 1969 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Riding a wave of nostalgia in the '70s, the Manhattan Transfer resurrected jazz trends from boogie-woogie to bop to vocalese in a slick, slightly commercial setting that balanced the group's close harmonies. Originally formed in 1969, the quartet recorded several albums of jazz standards as well as much material closer to R&B/pop. Still, they were easily the most popular jazz vocal group of their era, and the most talented of any since the heyday of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross during the early '60s....
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