Chick Corea Elektric Band


For more than three decades, Chick Corea has forged a multifaceted career by exploring music in a variety of settings. In his follow-up to 2002’s brilliant live two-CD outing Rendezvous in New York, the twelve-time GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist/keyboardist/composer returns to the studio for the first time in over a decade with his acclaimed Elektric Band. Together they deliver the exhilarating To The Stars on Stretch Records, distributed by Concord Records. Inspired by the science fiction novel of the same name, which was penned by L. Ron Hubbard, the CD is an invigorating launch into Corea’s rich imagination and plugged-in passion.

"Making this album has been the dream of a lifetime come true,” says Corea, who renders the tunes on both acoustic piano and electric keys. "This project is my favorite recording.”

For To The Stars he reunited the original members of the Elektric Band. Along for the intergalactic instrumental journey are saxophonist Eric Marienthal, electric and acoustic guitarist Frank Gambale, acoustic and electric bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. Additional support comes from such guests as Steve Wilson on soprano saxophone, Pernell Saturnino on percussion and Gayle Moran Corea on vocals. "The Elektric Band came together with a passion,” says the flight pilot. "We gathered in the studio to rehearse, and on the first run-through everyone was so incredibly over-the-top prepared…[that it] sent [all of us] over the wall. From there it was a real ride. The energy of the band was incredible.”

In the CD’s liners, Corea writes that To the Stars represents the convergence of three of his passions: "My passion as a composer/performer, my passion for the Elektric Band as a perfect orchestra, and my passion for L. Ron Hubbard as the ideal artist.” He notes that the seed for this recording was planted when he discovered Hubbard in 1968 as "a great writer, a great humanitarian and…a great artist.”

Corea has been a fan of Hubbard’s fiction for a quarter century. "To the Stars,” which he has read several times, is one of his favorite books. The last time Corea revisited the novel, he began to envision music that captured the characters and their adventures aboard the Hound of Heaven. In the story, the space ship approached the speed of light in its journey that lasted a couple of months and returned to earth hundreds of years in the future—a consequence of the scientific equation: "as mass approaches infinity, time approaches zero.”

At the beginning of the book, there’s a scene where Captain Jocelyn, the starship’s leader, plays a melody on a piano in a bar. Using Hubbard’s description of the music and setting, Corea started composing. "I wrote what I imagined Captain Jocelyn to be playing,” he says. (The tune, "Captain Jocelyn-The Pianist,” is a solo reflective acoustic and electric effects number that closes the album.)

Other tunes followed, including character sketches of Jocelyn’s consort Mistress Luck and Engineer Tenth Class Alan Corday. Early in the album, Corea and crew deliver "Mistress Luck—A Portrait,” a swinging, Latin-tinged tune with Corea leading on the lyrical lines. It’s followed by "Mistress Luck—The Party,” which like its title suggests is a celebratory, dance-friendly number. The Latin feel is pushed to the forefront and Gambale’s guitar catches fire during his electric single-note runs.

The guitarist also stars on "Alan Corday,” a bright, upbeat, all-acoustic number that Corea says is "technically the most demanding tune I’ve ever written.” The leader based the composition on a fandango rhythm he heard on a recording by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. Gambale recalls that the first time he viewed the 7-page chart and what Corea calls an "impossible solo” for guitar he felt overwhelmed. But on the recording, the guitarist nails the number with aplomb.

In addition, there are compositions that musically portray liftoff (the propulsive "Check Blast”) and touchdown (the charged "Johnny’s Landing”), the spaceship itself (the funk-inflected, percussive "Hound of Heaven”) and the adventure as a whole (the 10-minute suite, "The Long Passage,” that reflects the verve, joy and serenity of the journey). Interspersed throughout the tracks are a series of "Port View” sketches, atmospheric pieces that serve as interludes between the instrumental storytelling. In the liner notes, Corea says they portray "the vast vistas of space viewed through the ports of a spaceship.”

Corea enlisted Italian producer and keyboardist Emanuele Ruffinengo to aid him in capturing the right sound. Corea notes, ”Emanuele helped me put a mood and a tone into the album—really painting the atmosphere of the story—that takes my compositions and the band’s renditions into outer space.”

The CD was recorded at Mad Hatter Studios in Los Angeles, where previous Elektric Band discs had been tracked. Recording engineer Bernie Kirsh, a veteran of Elektric Band albums, was back in the saddle.

Corea says To the Stars, "brings together a whole lifetime of passion for LRH’s fiction and a lifetime of experiencing different forms and styles of music, all of which have landed in these pieces.” His band mates are equally enthusiastic about the project. Marienthal, in noting how Corea followed the book’s story with a groove, marvels at how the leader pushes the envelope compositionally and says, "Every tune is amazing.” Gambale notes, "This [material] is some of the most difficult music I’ve ever seen.” Patitucci praises Corea for his rhythmic diversity on the CD, while Weckl says, "Playing with Chick is always a challenge.”

On To the Stars, Corea says, "The Elektric Band had just come back together after 10 years and the wide breadth of color and virtuosity that the band could achieve became the ideal palette to realize this musical dream.” He adds, "But most importantly, the high spirits of the band became infectious and inspirational, enabling me to write this music in a very special way, knowing that it would be so well-cared for by them.”

Corea concludes, "And so it was. Now it’s our gift to you.”