In their first offering of recorded music as a trio, the Chick Corea New Trio has masterfully interpreted ten excellent, original compositions written by Chick Corea and one jazz standard written by Thomas "Fats" Waller on their Stretch Records CD titled Past, Present, and Futures. Just as the mind interprets what the ear hears, the trio's mind builds on Corea's meticulous and beautiful inspirations and arrive at concepts that are spiritual, metaphysical, and open-minded. Playing a variety of musical genres and styles including the blues and flamenco, bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Jeff Ballard provide total agreement for Corea's thematic forms through their unlimited creativity and combination of multiple textures, time signatures, and different tempos. The program opens with "Fingerprints," a tip of the hat to Wayne Shorter's classic "Footprints." Corea uses a 12-bar form in C minor with an unusual harmonic twist for the last four bars, as with Shorter's classic. Ballard is sensational on his drum solo and on his exciting percussive heartbeats. Cohen burns on bass, and presents a fascinating and exciting bass dance that is highly enjoyable. The only standard on the CD is Waller's great "Jitterbug Waltz" -- one of the first jazz waltzes ever written. Corea's blithe interpretation is a reflection of the past, resurfacing in the present with vastly different results. The colorful composition is further enhanced as both Corea and Cohen artfully dance on their instruments, playing their top-to-bottom command of the scales with the kind of beauty and grace that the waltz form captures so consistently. "Dignity" is also a jazz waltz and is certainly the most beautiful song on the CD. Dedicated to Armando Corea's wife, it is the consummate portrayal of a woman's sensitivity and spirituality, and her reflective, loving, and dignified nature is captured gracefully in Chick Corea's piano melodies. The title track is absolutely astounding in its artistry, harmony, and rhythmic beauty. Corea escorts his listeners into several musical scenarios, catching the beat of the particular time, space, and moment by varying the cadence and harmonic positions. Where Cohen's amazing use of pizzicato techniques to represent multiple images of time (in this instance, past, present, and futures) is sure to enchant the listener, his piano mastery becomes an event and a springboard for three different musical perspectives from Ballard and Cohen. Corea rolls out formidable lines and brilliant improvisory passages on "Life Line," with both Ballard and Cohen displaying the technical brilliance of the virtuoso performer in their compatible note-for-note rim shots and basslines. This song shows the mastery of the trio at its core, with both Cohen and Ballard putting themselves in the middle of a blaze of piano dialogue that connects their skills to the nucleus of Corea's brilliant accomplishment. This song is awesome. The Chick Corea New Trio is exceptional in their execution of Corea's compositional integrity, incorporating the themes of past, present, and futures throughout the set with continued sequences and modulations that develop its sustained intensity, musical subtext and text, and deep listening opps. The musical concepts on Past, Present, & Futures, as played by this trio, present no comparisons to previous Corea bands, and this release contains some of the freshest and finest compositions of Corea's career. A must-have.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein