Chick Corea has always been most challenged creatively by working with talented players, reaching from his early years with Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz and Miles Davis to his own leadership of memorably fascinating groups such as Return to Forever, the Elektric Band, the Akoustic Band, and his Five Peace Band.
His new group, Chick Corea and the Vigil, has an equally promising line-up of players, including Tim Garland playing tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet and flute, Charles Altura on electric and acoustic guitars, Hadrien Feraud on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Each is a young, talented player, eager to make the most of an opportunity to explore the wide potentials of contemporary jazz under Corea's marvelously creative guidance.
"I'm looking forward to the year's touring with The Vigil," says Corea. "I love the process of trying various ways of putting the music across to our audiences. Each new experience has points to improve upon, and points that worked well can be noted and kept. How far to push the audience's tolerance - how far to push my own and the band's tolerance - how to stay in that wonderful area of adventure without losing contact. This is the nightly challenge. This is what makes being a musician such a joy."
The Vigil's initial recording sets the stage for further explorations of the "wonderful area of adventure," capturing first impressions of new compositions, as well as first impressions of the band's rapport, and - equally important - the band's extraordinary potential.
From Corea's perspective, this debut recording by the Vigil also allows him to return to his "favorite format of writing music for a special hand-picked band for recording and touring."
On several tracks of The Vigil recording, set for release on Concord Jazz, Corea and the band are also joined by guest artists Pernell Saturnino on percussion and Gayle Moran Corea on vocals. And on the live track, "Pledge for Peace," dedicated to John Coltrane, the presence of saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and long-time Corea musical partner, bassist Stanley Clarke, call up recollections of the memorable, beyond-limit, spontaneously creative explorations that have been an essential aspect of Corea's music since he first arrived on the jazz scene in the '60s.
Other pieces on The Vigil recording cover much of Corea's fascination with what he describes as the "imaginative territory" - reaching across the universe - that has been present in much of his music. "On this, the band's first recording," adds Corea, "we captured first impressions of the compositions - and first impressions of the band's rapport - as we had never played the music live."
The opening track, "Galaxy 32 Star 4," with its spirited rhythms, is described by Corea in the ultimate view that inspired the piece: "The stars," he says, "are your playthings forever."
Track #2, "Planet Chia" takes Corea's musical overview of the universe into a more focused perspective. Corea describes the essence of his planetary view when he simply notes that "It's one of your playthings," an observation thoroughly illuminated by his colorful keyboard playing.
"Portals to Forever." track #3, calls up the probing musical curiosity of Corea's Return to Forever with his description, "Times and places of creativity past, present and future."
Track #4, "Royalty," as the title suggests, is a warmly impressionistic character study of drummer Roy Haynes, whom Corea describes as a "hero, mentor and friend."
Of "Outside of Space," track # 5, Corea says, "There are no words to say how outside of space is no place," explains Corea of a piece that features Gayle Moran Corea's soaring soprano.
"Pledge for Peace." track #6, like track #4, also honors one of Corea's musical heroes - in this case, John Coltrane - with a piece written, Corea says, "in the style of a prayer that was one of the musical vehicles that Coltrane often used."
Track #7, "Legacy." Corea wraps the first recording from his mesmerizing new band with a dedication "to the creators of our music culture who have kept The Vigil."
This debut collection of music from Chick Corea and The Vigil - like so many of Chick Corea's creative efforts - connects intimately with his views of the past, the present and the future, a "launch point" for everything he values about music and performance.
"That's the direction of The Vigil," concludes Corea, "everything I love, including the rapport and high-speed communication of making music with musicians who inspire me and inspire each other. This first set of music tells of spaces and freedoms, of what could be created in an ideal culture in a new world where the creative imagination is considered the most valuable possession one could have."
- Don Heckman, the International Review of Music