New Works By Corea And Cincotti

REVIEW by Willard Manus

Chick Corea's latest CD, ELEKTRIC BAND--TO THE STARS (Concord), was inspired by Corea's admiration for L. Ron Hubbard's science fiction novel To the Stars, which in turn led to Corea becoming a Scientologist, the religion founded by Hubbard and his disciples. Scientology has as many detractors as it does followers, but that doesn't mean an artist can't be inspired by it. Look what Catholicism, another embattled religion, has done for Bach and Haydn, to name but a few classical composers. Spiritual belief has always been a strong impetus to creation.

Another of Corea's passions went into the making of TO THE STARS--his love for the Elektric Band itself, which he calls a "perfect orchestra." Corea first formed the group in the late 80s and recorded twice with it, before going on to experiment with various other bands and musicians. Now, after ten years, Corea has put the Elektric gang back together--Frank Gambale (guitar), Eric Marienthal (sax), John Pattitucci (bass) and Dave Weckl (drums). He also invited such guest artists as Steve Wilson (sax), Pernell Saturnino (percussion) and Gayle Moran Corea (vocal choir) to help out on certain numbers.

The result is quite remarkable: music that not only expresses Hubbard's dramatic notions--such as the Hound of Heaven spacecraft blasting off into space or waiting to plop down on Johnny's Landing--but manages to swing as well, sometimes in lyrical fashion, other times with exploding clusters of notes that bring back the glory days of fusion jazz.

But on this disc Corea goes beyond fusion. TO THE STARS is sci-fi jazz, music of the celestial spheres powered by a driving force and rhythm (sometimes on the Latin side). All sides of Corea's compositional gifts are on display, not just his jaunty, vivid way with "Alan Corday," his portrait of a young spaceship commander, but his melancholic, mournful ruminations on death and melancholy ("Captain Jocelyn").

Corea's music, as always, is thoughtful and complex, yet bold and exciting--the work of one of the most original jazz composers (and keyboard artists) of our time. TO THE STARS isn't a CD that reveals all of its artistry on a first listening--and it's certainly not for jazz fans who dislike fusion or free-form jazz. But anyone willing to meet it halfway--and listen to it more than once--might just be touched in a profound way.

As wise and experienced as Corea is, Peter Cincotti is young and impressionable--but oh so gifted. Following on the success of his first record, Concord has released ON THE MOON, a CD which charts Cincotti's growth as an artist. Four of the 12 tunes were composed by the 21-year-old Cincotti, who writes as well as he plays and sings.

Cincotti composed these songs while he was on the road, trying to cope with travel and his first taste of fame. In "I'd Rather Be With You" he says:

It's been a while since I saw you

and I don't know what to say

I've flown around the world in circles

since fame and fortune came my way

And girls are all around me now it's true

But you should know I'd rather be with you.

Cincotti also mourns the death of a friend with equal honesty and emotion on "He's Watching," which concludes thusly:

Every day I always have some place to go

I've traveled far from the life I used to know

But still when I close my eyes and dream

I feel him near and I know

he's watching.

Most of the heartfelt and touching ballads sung by Cincotti feature his regular band (Barak Mori, bass; Mark McLean, drums; and Scott Kreitzer, sax) but producer Phil Ramone has brought in a host of other skilled musicians, such as trombonist Whycliffe Gordon, drummer Kenny Washington, harmonica-player William Galison and guitarist Jeffrey Mironov to add their personal touches to the lush arrangements of Rob Mounsey and Elena Barere.

The other songs on the CD include such classics as "St. Louis Blues," "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "I Love Paris."