JAZZ FUSION HAS always been part of the culture for me even though it’s traditionally been considered to be on the fringes. More people should give jazz a chance. Someone once told me that no one listens to jazz in New York. I found this to be palpably untrue after being herded through the Blue Note like a cow to the slaughter. My initial displeasure with the food and lack of table shoulder room was eventually over-ridden by the spectacle that is jazz when you hear and see the real deal in your face.
Chick Corea of course is the real deal in spades. The Vigil is the new model Chick representing his current compositions as aided by and interpreted through the hands of a younger generation of players keeping the flame burning: Frenchman Hadrien Feraud on bass, Marcus Gilmore (grandson of jazz great Roy Haynes) on drums, Tim Garland on saxes and winds and Charles Altura on guitar.
Together they make a sound that at times echoes Corea’s ‘70s fusion combo, Return To Forever. The album cover resurrects that group’s artistic concept of the romantic warrior, here a metaphor for keeping vigil and protecting past tradition with a view to further development. You can hear the influence on the opener, ‘Galaxy 32 Star 4’.
Elsewhere there’s a similarity to Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, as on ‘Planet Chia’ with its flurries of accented 16th note melodies and modal acoustic piano solo. As impressive as it is, the material on The Vigil lacks the instant appeal of both Return To Forever’s classic Romantic Warrior record and the Elektric Band’s stunning Eye Of The Beholder from 1988, which to me was the last great fusion album. I’ve heard nothing better in the field since that.
It’s difficult, at least for me, to describe jazz without sounding pretentious and feeling the need to use words like bohemian and vanguard. Indeed, Corea himself gave the following description of his new project at Lifeandtimes.com:
“This first set of music tells of spaces and freedoms, of what could be created in an ideal culture in a new world where the creative imagination is considered the most valuable possession one could have.”
He said all that in the music? Hmm. Stravinsky said that music by its very nature is powerless to express anything at all. It can conjure up powerful feelings for sure, but I don’t believe there’s any way lyricless music can communicate a specific literal idea to your brain unless it’s dressed up in an obvious time period and/or some kind of colloquialism, whereby it can then verge dangerously on vaudeville and the creamy milk of musical inspiration can turn to cheese. That’s the battle right there, taming the cheese. Whatever compositional concept might be unfolding in Corea’s head, there’s no denying he tames the cheese better than almost anyone. His music is always absolutely bereft of the pretentious cornball so much other jazz kicks towards us these days. Thankfully, I’m a terrible goalie.
But luckily, I caught The Vigil. Not like a disease, but like a bride’s bouquet. And I was more than happy to let this music wash me in the joys of the modern vanguard of…. damn, I did it. Never mind.
Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a listen of this record by musicians who are among the most skillful operating on the planet today. It’s as simple as that. There are a couple of extra surprises in there too, like a song from Chick’s wife, vocalist Gayle Moran, and some royal bass fingering from none other than the guv’nor, Stanley Clarke. I promise, your system will sound three times more expensive than whatever you paid for it. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 4/5
Music = 4/5