The New Chick Corea Trio Live at The Crystal Ballroom

Live at the Crystal Ballroom
Chick, Avishai and Jeff
4/28/01 – Portland, OR
  by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

The Crystal Ballroom sits on the third floor and was designed as a dance hall. Most of the floor has springs under it, giving the impression or walking on a very firm trampoline. The acoustics are good, though. The seating is intimate, a few hundred folks in folding chairs that have been arranged around the corner stage. Chick comes out, introduces Avishai Cohen on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and percussion, makes a comment about them ‘warming up’, then sits down and takes control.

Slowly at first, Chick plays, building the chords and runs in conjunction and counterpoint to Avishai’s bass, building until it clearly becomes “fingerprints” from the new CD. They continue on with “Jitterbug Waltz” and “The Revolving Door”, also from the CD. During the evening, they covered a few more tunes including the title track, but reciting a litany of titles they played does not do justice to the performance.

Chick is undeniably a master at improvisational piano performance. Avishai was his normal brilliant self, but the glue that held it together was Jeff Ballard. Throughout the performance his ability to tap or shuffle, tinkle softly or keep a rhythm at JUST the right time was marvelous. His consistent base was the ground upon which Chick and Avishai played, now dancing and running through the music, now softly pattering across the notes.

The CD itself is probably one of the best Chick Corea CD’s in a long time, and it hearkens back to the freedom of style and improvisational joy you heard from Chick back in the ‘Forever’ days. I am glad he has returned to the trio format, without all the brass and guitars, where his talent and joy can more fully be exposed. The choice of Avishai Cohen was a logical one, as he is one of the ‘Young Lions’ in the modern jazz world, but I have gained a new appreciation of Jeff Ballard, both from the CD and (even more so) from the live performance.

Chick Corea fans will be delighted with the new release, “Past, Present and Future”, and if you get a chance to see the trio perform, don’t pass it up.