Corea: Piano Concerto: Spain

COMPOSERS: Chick Corea
WORKS: Spain; Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Chick Corea (p), Avishai Cohen (db), Jeff Ballad (d); Origin, LPO/Steven Mercurio


Chick Corea’s new collaboration with the London Philharmonic is an exhilarating fusion of jazz and classical elements. The 23-minute version of one of his finest pieces, Spain, brilliantly integrates his sextet, Origin, with the LPO. Corea’s orchestral writing is deft and dynamic, and the orchestra seems totally at ease with the latin rhythms and the sparkling solos by Corea, trombonist Steve Davis and Steve Wilson on soprano. The Concerto has terrific vitality and the dialogue with piano never loses momentum.

The first movement moves from Romanticism to unbridled joy and the elegiac second movement has textural and emotional echoes of the Davis/Evans Porgy and Bess, and some massive Rite of Spring orchestral punctuations; Jeff Ballard handles most of the percussion writing on drumkit. The third and final movement is intensely dramatic with bravura writing and playing. Corea and the LPO are magnificent throughout and, at times, swing like the clappers. This is music for the millennium.

Tim Whitehead has a law degree, but in 1976 he turned his back on the legal profession to devote himself entirely to jazz. He now ranks with the finest European saxophonists and small-group composers, and many of the most gifted younger British musicians, including Django Bates and Denys Baptiste, have passed through his groups or workshops. Whitehead has made several excellent albums, but Personal Standards may well be his masterpiece. His own playing has reached an extraordinary level of musical and emotional expression, and in all eight performances here he seems to reach a Jarrett-like state of ecstasy, with passionate, newly minted phrases and melodic lines.


The unusual standards he favours all lend themselves to a funky or gospel treatment, and the very rhythms seem ecstatic. His new quartet with the superb Liam Noble on piano and the marvellous rhythm section of Sam Burgess and Milo Fell perform six of the pieces, and his previous quartet with Jacobsen, Somogyi and Barry perform the other two pieces which include ‘Lovely Day’, one of the joyous high spots.