Saturday, January 28, 2017

Chick Corea — The Mad Hatter

★★★★★

   In the middle of 1970’s decade Chick Corea was one of best recognized musicians on jazz scene. He was appreciated as pianist, composer, arranger, improviser and leader. He was known for his band and artists he played with. But first of all he was famous for his own style. Since his first fusion experiments in late sixties, Chick Corea was artist connecting and melting Spanish music idioms with elements of jazz genre. First great work, opening the sequence of such productions was Stan Getz’s Captain Marvel recorded in 1972 where Corea composed almost complete material. Musicians involved in recording sessions with Stan Getz, the same time were creating first album of Return to Forever – the band aiming to take vanguard position in jazz-rock of seventies. 
   Time spend with Return to Forever was this period when Corea has focused on symphonic type of arrangement. This was idea clearly taken from progressive rock. In 1976 composer of La Fiesta published groundbreaking double LP album My Spanish Heart where he developed great new vision of Latin jazz. Two years later in 1978 Chick Corea released next album experimenting with jazz-rock and fusion genres, combining jazz elements with progressive rock ideas. Titled The Mad Hatter this was a concept album with lyrics written by Gale Moran and clearly connected by some symbolic, graphic and narrative ideas with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. And the tendency of creating intricate concept albums with plenty of references was further evidence for strong bonds between fusion jazz and progressive rock.

Chick Corea — The Mad Hatter (1978)

   Chick Corea released The Mad Hatter album in 1978. It was recorded in Kendun Recorders studios in Burbank with jazz line-up and chamber sections. Jazz section were Joe Farrell (tenor saxophone, flute, piccolo), Herbie Hancock (electric piano), Jamie Faunt, Eddie Gómez (basses), Steve Gadd, Harvey Mason (drums) and Gayle Moran (vocals). Brass parts were played by Stewart Blumberg, John Rosenburg, John Thomas (trumpets) and Ron Moss (trombone) and string section was Charles Veal and Kenneth Yerke (violins), Denyse Buffum and Michael Nowack (violas), Dennis Karmazyn (cello). The leader himself played piano, electric piano (Fender Rhodes), synthesizers (Mini-moog, Poly-moog, Moog 15, Moog Sample & Hold, Arp Odyssey, Oberheim 8 Voice, Mxr Digital Delay, Eventide Harmonizer) and percussion (African shaker, marimba, cymbal and cowbell. He was also composer and arranger.
   As it has been indicated above, main contribution of progressive rock into jazz-rock crossover style was symphonic narrative and orchestral structure of arrangements. One of consequences of this attitude was concept album idea, which was not used before but so often convention in mainstream jazz. Chick Corea as pianist and composer was always closer to classical music than rock, especially in his sound ideas. In his albums he was constantly developing structural means giving in result various kinds of closed compositions and cycles. This feature played decided role also in construction of The Mad Hatter album. It is so rich in qualities, ideas and conceptions, fragments of modal improvisations are entwined with modernistic chamber arrangements and neoclassicist elements of compositions, it’s just perfect subject for structural analysis. Nonetheless all of these make this album more ambitious than it was acceptable in 1978. Four stars is lowest grade for such ambitious and well done project. Fifth star I am giving for my personal reasons - it was just one of my high-school favorite albums.

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