Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, The Song Is You

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Two time-capsule gems — one for the heart, one for the head — from a rainy September day in 1981 at the Woodstock Jazz Festival. A batch of normally cerebral jazz icons go gloriously buck wild on disc one, led by Anthony Braxton — a composer so pointy-headed he diagrams his song titles — absolutely tearing it up in an alto sax tribute to John Coltrane's speaking in tongues on “Impressions.” The trio behind him — pianist Chick Corea, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Miroslav Vitous — don't stint on the special sauce either, and it's bracing to hear this vivid snapshot of their shared youthful intensity. Lee Konitz is added to the quartet on “No Greater Love,” another stunningly potent workout. Konitz is pungent and plaintive, DeJohnette roiling and robust, Corea sprays note clusters and Vitous wails on arco. That sets up the 23-minute “All Blues,” Pat Metheny's lone appearance on either disc and not what his longtime fans might expect, although his spectral, cavernous tone is typically invested with loads of chops. The revelation here is Corea, who shreds and splices the song with a purposefully self-assured frenzy before handing it off to Metheny and the altos.

Two sets from one rainy September day in 1981 at the Woodstock Jazz Festival.

The second disc is tame by comparison, yet the ideas frolic with beguiling frequency and ingenuity. Fans of Corea and Konitz will be entranced by the depth of their conversational duet on “Stella by Starlight,” a showcase of wry wit, glancing harmonies, elated compliments, quick-witted adjustments and sweet vulnerability — it's the musical equivalent of the cinematic gabfest My Dinner With Andre. Finally, while Corea and DeJohnette are now rightfully durable stars of jazz, pay attention to the relatively obscure Vitous on “Waltz” and “Isfahan.” The bassist creates tones that hints at horns and the human voice then fall back into that rich, time-keeping well, and his engagement with the other members of the rhythm section has both a levitating freedom and a synergistic focus.