SFJAZZ Collective, “Live: SFJazz Center 2013 — The Music of Chick Corea & New Compositions” (SFJAZZ)
With its latest ambitious recording, the San Francisco-based SFJAZZ Collective celebrates another great composer (the group’s modus operandi), a new venue and a new addition to the band. Two years ago, the Collective saluted the music of Stevie Wonder with a release recorded over five nights at Jazz Standard in New York City. For its 11th release, a two-CD set, the octet, with new Miami-born drummer Obed Calvaire in tow, swings back to a jazz composer, the pianist and bandleader Chick Corea. The occasion: a four-night run in March 2013 that constitutes the first recorded performances at the Robert N. Miner Auditorium at the SFJAZZ Center, the multimillion standalone jazz complex that serves as the group’s home base.
Corea’s acclaimed Latin-tinged pieces are here in fresh, robust versions, starting with the disc-one opener, a take on “Spain” arranged by Venezuelan-born pianist Edward Simon, who offers a slow, moody reading of the theme before handing it off to vibraphonist Stefon Harris; the piece intensifies with solos during the samba section before returning to its beginning theme. In a similar vein, on the same disc, is “La Fiesta,” arranged by Puerto Rican-born saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who effectively shuffles the original order of the high-contrast sections. Bassist Matt Penman lays down the flamenco groove, giving rise to Zenón’s soaring alto solo and some rhythmic derring-do from Calvaire, in tandem with Harris and Penman.
Familiar Corea gems are on disc two, too—Harris’ tricked-out, multi-tiered arrangement of “500 Miles High,” its melody given a creative remixing, and Puerto Rican-born tenor saxophonist David Sánchez’s air-hanging take on the gorgeous ballad “Crystal Silence,” led by vibes and later incorporating brass-choir textures and open space for piano. Impressive originals figure in the mix, too, including Harris’ mellow “Let’s Take a Trip to the Sky”; trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s long “Home Is,” inspired in part by music from his native Israel; Penman’s rambunctious, color-shifting “Vegan Las Vegas”; trombonist Robin Eubanks’ funk-grooving “Shifting Center”; and Zenón’s multi-segmented “Grand Opening,” written in commemoration of the SFJAZZ Center’s opening.