Corea tackles Monk and some spiky episodes of free improv on this reissue of an ECM...
Peter Marsh 2003
Chick's career (sorry) has been marked by flashes of brilliance and rather more frequent lapses of taste (check the cover of Friends if you don't believe me). In spite of his undoubted skills as an improviser, he's never quite achieved the scale of commercial or (especially) critical success awarded to fellow ivory tinklers and Miles alumni Hancock, Jarrett or Zawinul.
Corea first teamed up with bassist Miroslav Vitous (later to join Weather Report) and drummer Roy Haynes in 1968 for Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. Trio Music (originally issued as a double CD) is drawn from their second meeting in 1981. ECM has always brought out the best in Corea, with the label's tendency towards introspection stripping away most of the fussiness and bombast that makes some of his other recordings a bit hard to stomach. The trio setting is a sympathetic frame for Corea's pianistic talents for much the same reasons. The set is split between free-ish improvisations (sometimes based round tiny predetermined themes) and some Monk tunes.
As Steve Lacy's proved, interpreting Monk is best treated as the work of a lifetime and probably best done without a piano in sight, and these knotty, sparse tunes aren't an obvious fit with Corea's Bud Powell derived bop stylings. But there are plenty of instances where the idea pays off; "Rhythm-ning" and "Little Rootie Tootie" feature playful, splashy piano solos and some nifty comments from the rhythm section. On the downside, "Reflections" falls victim to Corea's decorative flourishes which effectively bury Monk's delicate, quizzical melody.
The improvisations are spikier affairs; "No 3" is dense, episodic and the effect is often more likeStravinsky than anything else. Vitous uses a bow much of the time, which is a shame as his reedy, thin tone is nowhere near as engaging as his meaty pizzicato playing. "No1" and the desperately exciting "Slippery When Wet" are kicked into a bebop-driven orbit by Vitous' nimble drive and the unstoppable Haynes. Personally I'd pay money to hear Mr Haynes tap his fingers on a table, but his performances here are really something else and bring out the best in all involved. Worth a listen.