Piano Improvisations, Vol. 1

Chick Corea

What’s most remarkable about Piano Improvisations—both discs culled from the same April, 1971 recording session at Arne Bendiksen Studio in Oslo, Norway—is how much of it would appear on later recordings. “Song for Sally” ultimately appeared in Gary Burton’s repertoire as “Sea Journey,” but is already fully formed on this earlier solo version, and is an early demonstration of Corea’s highly charged, percussive approach to the piano. Lyrical, but with powerful forward motion and a harmonic sensibility that combined the sophisticated language of jazz with Latin concerns and a touch of European classicism, it’s a song more closely associated with Burton and his quintet record with legend-in-the-making guitarist Pat Metheny, Passengers, but is also one of Piano Improvisations Vol. 1‘s highlights. Another is the enduring “Sometime Ago,” where Corea’s Latin roots are displayed even more prominently, and which exceeds Return to Forever’s version on its 1972 debut in length, scope and effortless freedom. Corea revisits “Song of the Wind,” from The Complete IS Sessions, but here, while swinging in its own unique way, it’s a more impressionistic reading that demonstrates just how much the pianist’s voice had evolved in just two years.

But the ultimate high point of Vol. 1 is the eight-part suite, “Where Are You Now?,” where the pianist runs the gamut from the expressive beauty of “Picture 1” and joyous “Picture 4” (which foreshadows Return to Forever’s dancing “What Game Shall We Play Today”) to the more oblique freedom of “Picture 3,” and its inside-the-piano musings, and the quirkily tempestuous “Picture 6.” Released only a few months apart, the distance between Corea’s more left-of-center proclivities on A.R.C. and his newfound ability to mesh unfettered improvisation with engaging, singable writing on Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 couldn’t have been more profound.

— AllAboutJazz

Album Tracks

  1. Noon Song
  2. Song for Sally
  3. Ballad for Anna
  4. Song of the Wind
  5. Sometime Ago
  6. Where Are You Now? A Suite of Eight Pictures - Picture 1
  7. Picture 2
  8. Picture 3
  9. Picture 4
  10. Picture 5
  11. Picture 6
  12. Picture 7
  13. Picture 8