WORTH A LISTEN
Chick Corea is such a nice guy that sometimes I feel like a dick for criticising his music. On the insert for Change, he writes in his dedication: “To The Idealist, the Dreamer…To those who persist towards their goals of Betterment and Beauty…To those who truly Help, To the Artist in all of us.” Those are such beautiful sentiments, and for me, also a kind of unintentional reproof.
After all, what do I really contribute to the world as a music reviewer? Hopefully, I can point listeners to music that is especially worthwhile, but I have no illusion that what I do is anywhere close to being as important as what a great artist like Chick Corea does. The composition and performance of his tune Andromeda, which is featured on Five Peace Band, one of Chick’s latest recordings, is worth more than my entire output as a human being.
Why am I less than inspired by Change?
Wigwam is a clever blues, with Chick playing marimba and then arranging a counterpoint melody on the horns. I’m at a loss as to why I don’t like it better. I don’t care much for Bob Shepperd’s and Steve Wilson’s solos on horns and woodwinds, or Steve Davis on trombone. It’s not that they’re awful or anything, but their phrasing just doesn’t stick in my head. Bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Jeff Ballard make a fine rhythm team, but they aren’t the focus of the music.
As usual, I don’t much like Chick’s renditions of Latin material. It comes across as self conscious and cute.
All of the songs and arrangements exhibit an incredible amount of knowledge and craft. The musicianship, in a technical sense, is at a very high level indeed. But I’m just not moved by most of it.
I sort of enjoyed Chick’s solo on Early Morning Blues, a simple Milesian throwaway.
My favorite tune is L.A. Scenes, which Chick gives kind of a film noir feel. Listening to it is almost like watching a movie. In the liner notes, Chick writes that L.A. Scenes was an attempt to portray a walk down Franklin Avenue. I’d say he was successful.
Home is also kind of nice. Chick says it’s based on a progression from an old Booker Little tune, but actually it reminds me of a Miles Davis/Ron Carter composition called Mood. Interestingly, the feel is melancholy, which is probably not what Chick intended.
So, why don’t I like Change?
As complex and involved as most of the material is, it doesn’t have any hooks to speak of. For me, it slides in one ear and out the other. Oddly enough, the only tune with decent hooks was Lylah, written by bassist Avishai Cohen. How’s that for a vague criticism? Worse than useless.
Now, not only do I feel like a heel for criticizing the artistic output of such a decent human being as Chick, I feel like an incompetent fool for not finding reasonable grounds for my dissatisfaction with the tunes on Change.
Know this: the musicianship on Change is of a very high caliber, there’s lot of compositional variety, the arrangements are the opposite of lazy, and there are lots of innovative ideas. I just didn’t like it. Go figure.