Creative Music Studio

Woodstock Jazz Festival, Vol. 1

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This is the first of two (hopefully more) CD compilations coming from the Creative Music Studio's Woodstock Jazz Festival, a tenth-anniversary celebration for the upstate New York progressive "world music" study center of Karl Berger and friends, which took place during a stormy day on the Oehler Lodge Olympic soccer field next to the CMS studios, classrooms, and living quarters, on September 19, 1981. The day-long festival, organized by Jack DeJohnette and his wife Lydia as a benefit for CMS, captures the better portion of a dead-on tour de force presentation featuring Chick Corea on acoustic piano with drummer DeJohnette, bassist Miroslav Vitous, and duets with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and Corea. As concert pieces, they are naturally lengthy and stretched. Precedent-setting events and brilliant musicianship combine forces. The sound quality is well above average, and an intimate feeling is evident. The opener, "Waltz," has the trio dancing, probing and swinging, as only the quicksilver Corea and the lunging, animated DeJohnette can inspire. It's also the first-ever public performance for this Corea piece. At nearly 19 minutes long, "The Temple of Isfahan" follows, with Corea introducing the piece introspectively, then poignantly muting strings with fingers to a staccato effect, thus evoking stark, abstract echoes of Iran/Persia, especially during Vitous' haunting bowed bass solo. Corea is possessed with a Cecil Taylor-like spirit, a reminder of his days with Circle. The Corea/Konitz duet pieces are "Stella by Starlight" and "'Round Midnight." "Stella" struts in its own conversational way, these two geniuses turning the standard into a composition of their own over a beautiful 16 minutes. Corea is even more playful, with Konitz spare, droll or whimsical. Monk's "Midnight" is captured as if it were an orchestral suite, utilizing a "circle the wagons" approach to hinting at, teasing, and seducing the widely practiced classic melody; it's a big sound for two people, an important musical and archival document, and probably just the tip of the iceberg for what other musical magic was conjured up on that special day in the rain.

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