Chick Corea – The Montreux Years


The late Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, had the great foresight to document Switzerland’s premier musical jamboree, and it has accumulated into the world’s largest private collection of live audio and visual recordings. Recently those vaults have been opened, and we’ve been treated to unreleased live compendiums from artists as diverse as Marianne Faithful, Muddy Waters and John McLaughlin. Now the inimitable Chick Corea gets his turn in the spotlight and The Montreux Years, featuring music recorded over two decades, perfectly illustrates why he continues to influence artists of all persuasions.

Having played with legendary musicians such as Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Willie Bobo, and Herbie Mann, it would have been easy (and understandable) for Chick Corea to have become dwarfed in their shadow, to become a talented session musician who illuminated others’ works (indeed his first appearance at Montreux was as part of the Stan Getz Quartet in 1972). It’s to his great credit that he became well-respected in his own right, and he always made sure that his light didn’t eclipse others. That’s most evident on opener ‘Fingerprints’, a track recorded with his New Trio in 2001. Chick creates room mid-song for Jeff Ballard, who delivers a mesmeric drum solo, and this is not only testament to Chick’s generosity of spirit, but also to a musical maturity; the drums counterpoint his piano and create plenty of light and shade.

In terms of career trajectory, I’d draw direct parallels between Chick and Miles Davis, insofar as neither stood still musically for too long. Like Miles, Chick’s career was in constant evolution, and from trad jazz to classical via the avant-garde and electronica, he was a musical chameleon. However, Chick never really shed his skin, and each new incarnation carried elements of the last, and that’s exactly what made his fusing of genres so convincing, and so effortless, and makes The Montreux Years flow so smoothly, despite being compiled from six performances. ‘Quartet No. 2 (Pt. 1)’ contains everything that made Chick a great jazz musician, whilst the following ‘Interlude’ (performed with the Elektric Band) is a piece of pure rock theatre with its call back vocals and audience participation.

The logical successor to Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, ‘America (Continents Pt. 4)’ is the perfect amalgamation of jazz, Latin swing, and classical, and despite its odd constituent parts, it flows like a luxuriant river of silk. Chick’s spellbinding intro to ‘New Waltz’ promises 14 minutes of pure heaven, and an all-star band deliver in spades. This album is testimony not only to the powerful genius of Chick Corea, but also to the eclectic nature of the Montreux Jazz Festival which allowed him to appear in so many guises, and on both counts, The Montreux Years is a winner.

Track List:

  1. Fingerprints – Chick Corea New Trio (Live at Auditorium Stravinski, 2001)
  2. Bud Powell – Chick Corea Freedom Band (Live At Miles Davis Hall, 2010)
  3. Quartet No. 2 (Pt. 1) – Chick Corea Akoustic Band (Live At Casino Montreux, 1988)
  4. Interlude – Chick Corea Elektric Band, 2004)
  5. Who’s Inside The Piano? – Chick Corea Quartet (Live At Auditorium Stravinski, 1993)
  6. Dignity – Chick Corea New Trio (Live At Auditorium Stravinski, 2001)
  7. America (Continents Pt. 4) – Chick Corea & The Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, 2006)
  8. New Waltz – Chick Corea Quartet (Live At Auditorium Stravinski, 1993)