Chick Corea, the endlessly inquisitive keyboardist and composer, has made a point of collaborating far and wide throughout his career. But there’s a special category of music that rests on his bond with Steve Gadd, a drummer known both for the alert intelligence of his ear and the heavy pull of his groove.
The two musicians, both now in their 70s, have formed a new band as co-leaders. It’s a spry electro-acoustic ensemble with Steve Wilson on saxophones and flute, Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals, Carlitos Del Puerto on bass, and Luisito Quintero on percussion. Here is an exclusive track from the group’s debut, Chinese Butterfly, due out on Jan. 19, 2018 from Concord Jazz.
The tune is an easeful but eventful stroll called “Like I Was Sayin’” — and if that titles implies the continuation of a prior conversation, there’s good reason for that.
Corea and Gadd first played together in 1965, when both were sidemen in a band led by flugelhornist Chuck Mangione.
They went down separate paths for a while — Corea as a percussive pianist in the postbop lineage, and Gadd as an alert, in-the-pocket drummer — before regrouping in the ‘70s. By then, Corea was a marquee figure in the rise of jazz-rock, and Gadd was one of the most prolific and admired session drummers on the scene. Their collaboration can be heard on an inspired run of Corea albums from 1976 to ‘78, including My Spanish Heart and Three Quartets.
“Like I Was Sayin’” faintly recalls an album like Friends, in the use of coolly aerated Fender Rhodes piano and the relatively sparse orchestration. (It also features a Gadd solo over a syncopated vamp — a classic touch.)
Elsewhere on the album, there are tracks set up to feature Wilson and Loueke; there’s a piece contributed by guitarist John McLaughlin, “Chick’s Chums.” And there’s a guest appearance on vocals by Philip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire, on a version of the band anthem “Return to Forever.”
In a statement released by Concord Jazz, Corea characterizes the album as a true byproduct of energies, regardless of whose name is listed as composer. “It’s a co-creation,” he says. “I write the compositions, and Steve puts together the form of the rhythm, which is the backbone of the band. In my music, rhythm is everything – if the music doesn't have the right emotion and rhythm, it can’t live.”
The Corea-Gadd Band is now on tour in Europe; for more information, visit chickcorea.com.