Chinese Butterfly

Chick Corea / Steve Gadd

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Chinese Butterfly Review

by Matt Collar

Pianist Chick Corea and drummer Steve Gadd purposefully rekindle their '70s fusion roots on 2017's double-disc Chinese Butterfly. Although they are longtime associates, with Gadd touring often with Corea and appearing on albums like 1976's My Spanish Heart, they've never totally collaborated on an album before. On Chinese Butterfly, Corea joins Gadd's working ensemble for a set of newly penned originals that make the most of their long-held mutual admiration. Joining them are their equally adept bandmates, saxophonist/flutist Steve Wilson, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, and percussionist Luisito Quintero. Together, they have crafted an album that draws upon the expansive, keyboard-heavy sound of Corea's '70s fusion work, while also weaving in various Latin and African traditions. In some ways, the album brings to mind Corea's 1978 album Friends, which also featured Gadd in a similarly loose and lively atmosphere. Tracks like the opening "Chick's Chums" and slinky "Like I Was Sayin'" are funky, bop-inflected jams that could easily have been culled from a vintage Return to Forever album. Similarly, the languid, Brazilian-accented "Serenity" is a lyrical, gorgeously rendered number that fits nicely into Corea's long-standing love of world rhythms. Those rhythms are further explored on the album's second disc, which features an epic reading of the classic "Return to Forever" theme featuring guest vocals by Philip Bailey. Elsewhere, Loueke grounds the Afro-bossa-influenced "Wake-Up Call" with his hushed vocals that give way to the band's lively group interplay. With both Corea and Gadd in their seventies at the time of recording, it's refreshing to hear them sound so inventive and willing to explore new songs, even as they look back on their over 50-year partnership. Ultimately, it's that vibrant, in-the-moment reciprocity that makes Chinese Butterfly such a compelling listen.

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