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beautiful flamenco-tinged suite
on February 21, 2006
This beautiful, Spanish-tinged work by Chick Corea seems a throwback to the recordings the venerable jazz pianist/composer made in the 1970's. Given the overt influence of flamenco (several of the musicians are veterans of Paco de Lucia's group), one thinks immediately of "My Spanish Heart" (1976). But, with the modal vamps, odd time signatures and (tasteful) deployment of the Fender Rhodes and synthesizers, one can also discern links to similar "tone poems" (as Corea refers to them) such as "The Leprechaun" and "The Mad Hatter". The individual tunes may not have the immediate, infectious appeal of those on "My Spanish Heart" (a veritable classic), but the variety of expressive moods, richness of harmony (strains of Debussy and Berg), flowing improvisations and pulsating rhythmic grooves found in the passages of "The Ultimate Adventure" constitute a real listening pleasure. Audiophiles will be especially pleased with the immaculate production. A minor caveat: Frank Gambale's acoustic guitar playing (some of the last tracks) while competent enough, was somewhat lackluster. Too bad one of Chick's other guitar-playing friends (Al Di Meola or John McLaughlin) couldn't have taken a stab at the changes.
To this reviewer, it is of no aesthetic consequence that the material on "The Ultimate Adventure" was inspired by a story attributed to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. At the Berkeley stop of his current tour, Corea (long-time member of that organization) was laughed at and mocked by some cretinous audience members for merely mentioning the origins of his composition; is not a modicum of civilized tolerance due an artist with 40 years of creative endeavors under his belt? As an Orthodox Christian, I have absolutely no interest in Scientology, but I respect the fact that Chick Corea continues to find in it a form of inspiration. Finally, what might be seen as promotion of Hubbard's book (it is advertised in the album liner notes) may be more charitably viewed as nothing other than Corea sharing something that made a positive difference in his life. No one is under any compulsion to investigate further; a case in point being made in the fact that this reviewer paid no attention whatsoever to either the story background or the individual track titles, preferring to enjoy the music in serene (though not malevolent) indifference to its origins.