Chick Corea & Bela Fleck
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Sun June 24, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
The problem with a great many of Béla Fleck’s albums, with or without the Flecktones, is that they frequently are too cerebral for their own good. Undeniably, he is a virtuosic performer who never suffers from a shortage of ideas. While his music has been both technically magnificent and intellectually stimulating, it also has had a tendency toward being difficult to approach. Evidenced by his forays with bass player Edgar Meyer and banjoist Tony Trischka, these issues are magnified when he is placed within the framework of a duet setting. For his latest project The Enchantment, Fleck teamed with legendary pianist Chick Corea to run through 10 new compositions and a cover of Ary Barroso’s seminal, Latin jazz standard Brazil. Although the set occasionally becomes mired within the duo’s intricate and highly focused thought processes, there also are plenty of indications that this is a collaboration that truly could work, if only it was given the proper time to develop and grow.
Building upon their shared love of bending genres until they break, Corea and Fleck seamlessly blur the line between jazz and bluegrass, though blues licks and classical flourishes manage to dart through the proceedings, too. Nevertheless, it’s not where the songs begin but rather where they end that gives The Enchantment its distinctive flavor. Without even glancing at the liner notes, it is immediately apparent who wrote each of the outing’s tracks, but time and again, the duo connects midstream to incorporate a more rounded perspective into the music. Fleck’s Mountain, for example, begins with Corea and Fleck loosely playing with the familiar theme from the traditional folk tune Shady Grove, but as it progresses, they gradually allow the melody to spiral outward until it becomes a jazz-inflected abstraction. Likewise, Corea’s Children’s Song #6 skips playfully along its classically minded constructs, but as it unravels, it is transformed into a brisk dance that defies categorization.
All of the compositions featured on The Enchantment succeed in generating some level of excitement at the possibilities that they hold, but over the course of the endeavor, the formula that Corea and Fleck employed remains disturbingly noticeable. In effect, each tune follows a pattern that begins with the introduction of an idea that is tossed back and forth between the instrumentalists. The piano and banjo initially square off and circle around each other, and on subsequent iterations, rhythm and melody become further intertwined. Granted, this is the basic concept that lurks behind any improvisational sojourn. On The Enchantment, however, Corea and Fleck take absolutely no steps to mask their process, and this, in turn, is what keeps the musicians from realizing the full potential of their collaboration.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box