Chick Corea
The Vigil


4.4
superb

Review

by Hernan M. Campbell STAFF
September 9th, 2013 | 34 replies


Release Date: 08/06/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Corea's elektrokoustic band.

Chick Corea is a household name in the jazz world. He rose to prominence in the late '60s when he joined Miles Davis' second quintet, inheriting the mantle from original pianist Herbie Hancock during the recording of 1968's Filles de Kilimanjaro. Corea's opportunity to study at the foot of the master, at the exact point in time in which Miles Davis was undergoing a transitional phase that would revolutionize the jazz world entirely, was nothing short of destiny. The '60s jazz scene was all about pushing boundaries and questioning the norm, and musicians like Miles Davis were very integral in the evolution of the genre. Corea was no stranger to the modal and avant-garde scenes that were already thriving in the mainstream, but by being given the ability to be a part in the creation of Filles de Kilimanjaro, he acquired a front row seat in watching Miles Davis discover and define the essential elements that would shape the sound of jazz fusion. Since straying away from Miles' outfit in the early '70s to pursue his own solo career, Corea has dedicated a grand portion of his career into integrating the ethics that he's learned from Miles Davis -- the otherworldly ambiences, the incendiary jam segments, and a restless obsession with innovation -- to fabricate his own brand of eclectic jazz.

The Vigil presents itself like a window into Corea's own nostalgia. While Corea might be jamming with a new group entirely, the music he's written doesn't introduce an evolution in sound, but rather a profound look at who Chick Corea is. Practically every track in the album reveals something about his influences and previous works. There's a combination of both acoustic and electric arrangements throughout the album, and it's a choice that gives Corea the opportunity to not only cover his favourite eras in jazz, but to make references to his own various evolutions as well. Songs like "Galaxy 32 Star 4" and "Portals To Forever" definitely nod at the fusion repertoire that the Elektric Band conjured up in their debut in 1986. The sound and atmosphere is very laid-back here. The agenda in these tracks is to simply perform a traditionally-composed, melodic tune. Both "Galaxy 32 Star 4" and "Portals To Forever" are working with the bare fundamentals of fusion- the kind of structure found in Return To Forever's first two albums that still kind of operated with a post-bop mentality. In other words, the electric instruments are not used to their full potentials. There's no indulgence in distortion and the breakneck virtuosity is hushed, if not entirely absent. As usual, Corea's ensemble exploits some latin-styled vibes, particularly Brazilian rhythms and aesthetics. Each instrument works thematically to construct either a lively, yet dulcet theme or setting up the stage for the lead instruments to take the spotlight and simply shine.

"Galaxy 32 Star 4" is pretty much a solo show. Right from the beginning, the musicians sets up a template for everyone to take turns and build on. Although drummer Marcus Strickland and bassist Hadrien Feraud constantly challenge the rhythm with some adventurous movements, while not once disrupting the flow of the song, it's the synergy that guitarist Charles Altura and Corea develop near the end that takes the display of showmanship to whole new level of excitement (think "Al Di Meola days"). "Portals To Forever" is not only the highlight of the album, but it also presents us with a 'conventional' fusion track that covers all grounds. It starts off with a sturdy uptempo rhythm by Corea and Strickland, while saxophonist Tim Garland joins in and out to compliment the song with some relaxing notes. There's a unity of atmosphere and virtuosity in "Portals To Forever". It's a euphonic piece riddled with adventurously indulgent twists, from complex key and chord changes to altering time signatures that showcase stellar instinct and execution. It's very gratifying to see Corea channel the progressive mindset of Return To Forever, and compose a piece that consistently shifts into different forms and unveils a new ambience at every turn.

While The Vigil is indeed a 'fusion-oriented' album of sorts, there's a number of fully acoustic pieces that brings a different kind of energy to the table. "Planet Chia" revisits Corea's love for traditional Spanish music, strutting a passionate flamenco-inspired segment by Corea and Altura's solo duties on acoustic piano and nylon-stringed guitar. "Pledge For Peace" is another piece written entirely under an acoustic set, but where "Planet Chia" focuses on euphony, "Pledge For Peace" decides to dwell into something a bit more dynamic. There's a '60s-Coltrane mindset that directs "Pledge For Peace." It's a modal epic with an experimentally-tinged feel, and so for most of the time, it acts like a stress-free jam where the musicians can let loose and improvise. Tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Stanley Clarke guest star in this piece, and their collective improvisations really help augment the power of the track. Ravi Coltrane's solos are otherworldly in their own way, he erupts at his own pace with scalar notes and challenges the melodic framework with rhythmic variations. Stanley Clarke has his own solo in the midsection, and while there's pure dexterity flowing out of his fingers, it feels like an irrelevant and prolonged addition to the piece.

"Outside Of Space" and "Legacy" are the two most obvious references to the past that are present on the album. "Outside Of Space" feels like it could have been an outtake from either of Return To Forever's first two albums. Gayle Moran Corea takes Flora Purim's role here as an unnecessary singer in what would otherwise be a perfect lounge piece. Her voice just lacks any sense of captivation. While there is emotion in her singing, her performance feels far too forced and soulless to credit her as a worthy successor to Flora Purim. "Legacy" fast-forwards to a Romantic Warrior-like style, but with some radical 'Circle-inspired' ingredients to spice up the track. It has the jazz-rock sound and spacey atmospheres of Return To Forever's latter efforts, but while operating under a flexible harmonic structure that allows the musicians a broader sense of freedom to manipulate the rhythmic and melodic framework of the piece with as much spontaneity as they please.

As I mentioned earlier, The Vigil presents itself like a symbolic scrapbook. A compilation of some of Corea's best concepts all gathered together in one essential offering. There's some very remarkable playing and composing found throughout The Vigil, and because of the diverse range of sounds and styles that the album chooses to work with, there's something for every jazz fan to mull over. Corea makes little to no slips in his persistent genre-hopping, which therefore gives The Vigil a very consistent vibe throughout. He's like a mad scientist at work in this album, combining the elements that made his previous albums so enthralling -- the majestic melodies of his various solo works, the adventurous attitude of Circle, and the jazz-rock explosiveness of Return To Forever and The Elektric Band -- and breathes life to a new embodiment of masterful ingenuity.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2013


4453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

I've had some bad writer's block recently, so please give any constructive criticism you have. I'm really sorry about the length. I'm still trying to renovate my writing style.

recommended tracks (it's only streaming on spotify as of now) :
"Portals To Forever" (typical fusion track)
"Planet Chia" (spanish-tinged jazz)
"Legacy" (for the Return to Forever fans)

scissorlocked
September 9th 2013


3511 Comments


seems great - which do you think is a good album to start with this guy?

review is big indeed but it reads pretty well man!

Digging: Distance - Outer Limits

PunchforPunch
September 9th 2013


6280 Comments


Been meaning to check this mofo guess i should start with 'Now He Sings, Now He Sobs' then this

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2013


4453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

@scissor
Thanks, man. How have you been? It's been a while.
I would say this is a good place. It kind of has it's foot in every style he's worked with. A lot of the songs are pretty accessible, despite some experimental tendencies in 2 tracks.

If not you could check out Return to Forever's work: Light as a Feather (post-bop), Romantic Warrior or Hymn of The Seventh Galaxy (jazz mixed with prog and funk/fusion). His solo stuff is a bit hit or miss, but My Spanish Heart (jazz fusion mixed with some classical), Eye of the beholder (fusion), and his work with the Elektric band are pretty good as well.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2013


10363 Comments


You say you had writers' block on this? Doesn't show one bit, bud. Fluid, exciting writing from you as always. I love how much your writing has improved.

TheCrocodile
September 9th 2013


303 Comments


I like it when the staff is jazzin'

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
September 9th 2013


4507 Comments


wait, this is actually good?

somnolence
September 9th 2013


405 Comments


electroacoustic is misleading here, more-like acoustically infused fusion; contemporary excursions

nice review

WeepingBanana
September 9th 2013


10208 Comments


this guys is mega talented

deathofasalesman
September 9th 2013


5853 Comments


The fact this guy is churning out great stuff this late in the game is amazing.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2013


4453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

@jacob
Thank you. that's very kind of you to say. It just took a very long time to get started and write. I knew what i wanted to say, i just couldnt write it down in a manner that i was happy with. All of my ideas sounded bad.

tommygun
September 9th 2013


25142 Comments


like jacob said, if you had writer's block it certainly doesn't show here

very good review man, enjoyed it a lot

really hitting that perfect balance of conversational and 'flowery'

Digging: Banks - Goddess

tommygun
September 9th 2013


25142 Comments


double up double up

OmairSh
September 9th 2013


11923 Comments


Oh crap a 2013 release?!!!!

Digging: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Mustt Mustt

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2013


4453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

@Tommy
Thanks, man. I'm steadily trying to write at the level of the other staff members. Getting that perfect balance of conversation and flowery/professional like you mentioned. Slowly, but surely I hope I feel like I'm getting there.

Also, starting to dig AM a bit more. I was listening to it a lot today and I think I'm starting to see the love.

@Omair
Yeah, I don't follow his works as closely as I should, so I found out like a few days after the release. It's a fun listen tough.


tommygun
September 10th 2013


25142 Comments


no doubt man, your last 20-30 pieces have been really great

you're def one of my top 3 fave staffers to read

yeah AM is tight prob settling on a 3.5 - light 4 after a dozen spins

OmairSh
September 10th 2013


11923 Comments


tommy who;re you to judge?

tommygun
September 10th 2013


25142 Comments


to judge what?

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2013


4453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Oh, thanks, Tommy. That means a lot.

And yeah, I currently have AM at a 3.2 might bump it up to a 3.6ish. "Arabella" and "One For The Road" have been stuck on my head all day. Everyone is raving about it, but I still dont think it's AOTY material for me personally.

tommygun
September 10th 2013


25142 Comments


yea there's a lot of smooth grooves but it doesn't have that much staying power really

gonna check this album here btw you sold me on it



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