Chick Corea

The Complete "Is" Sessions

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The Complete "Is" Sessions were recorded during Chick Corea's tenure with Miles Davis, along with bassist Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. Recorded over three days in New York, the final product came out as two albums on different labels -- "Is," "This," "Jamala," and "I," were issued as Is on Solid State, and the remaining cuts came out as Sundance on Groove Merchant -- "The Brain," "Song of the Wind," "Converge," and the title cut. Blue Note has assembled not only the two released recordings on this double-CD package, but the alternate takes as well, to offer a complex, very remarkable portrait of the chemistry that occurred when that trio engaged Woody Shaw, Bennie Maupin, Hubert Laws, and additional drummer Horace Arnold. Corea plays both acoustic and electric piano on these sides and, taking his cue form his work with Miles, he pushes his own sense of melodic invention with the right hand to the breaking point. However, not a jazz-rock session in any way, this material, for as "outside" as it was trying to get, was formalist in conception if not intent -- these players swung hard even if they didn't intend to. A listen to "The Brain," with its front line engagement by Maupin and Corea using counter point inside a blues fragment to open up a lane for hard swinging rhythm is a case in point. Elsewhere, on "This," and its longer alternate take, angular Rhodes solos are stunningly reflected back into a polyrhythmic mass by bassist Holland. Corea's runs are countered in rhythm and harmony. "Song of the Wind," a ballad in inception, becomes a kind of mid-tempo piece that uses mode and formal composition to create a meandering wind through nearly pastoral soundscapes thanks to Corea's glissandi and Hubert Laws' beautiful single-tone playing. In sum, this is out jazz that any jazz fan can appreciate; it not only respects the modern tradition, but uses it to further its own aims. This is the kind of stuff Blue Note should do more often.

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