Concord **** RECOMMENDED
Unveiling The Vigil, the band, in its live incarnation earlier this year in a two-night run at Ronnie Scott’s, the club dates came just under a year after New Crystal Silence arranger Tim Garland joined the jazz icon on stage as a surprise guest at the Barbican when Corea had earlier performed in front of a big concert hall audience that night with Gary Burton. Garland is on The Vigil, an important presence in the band profile, sounding very Wayne Shorter-like in ‘Galaxy 32 Star 4’, the eight-minute opener. Next, ‘Planet Chia’ has flamenco flavours that allow both guitar and bass room, while Corea’s soloing is playful exuding great spirit from the 72-year-old. The Vigil is not an all-out jazz-rock juggernaut like the most recent version of Return to Forever, but it has a more thoughtfully complex dimension. Yet there is inspirational heat here, of the fiery polyrhythmic variety provided by Marcus Gilmore who’s quite brilliant on this record throughout. Not sure about Corea in armour riding a trusty steed on the sci-fi album cover (who’s he going into battle with and on which planet, more's to the point?) but you can’t have everything. Guests include Stanley Clarke and Ravi Coltrane added on the huge 17-minute John Coltrane tribute ‘Pledge for Peace’ the fascinating penultimate track of the seven that comes with excited audience reaction. The epic ‘Portals to Forever’, the album’s other significant achievement, has a wondrously liquid synth continuo line at the beginning that then allows Garland to go the extra mile and later develop some velvety dark bass clarinet riffing as the tune practically explodes. This tune takes you on an exhilaratingly sprawling ride where Gilmore can show the Dennis Chambers side of his technique at first, no mean feat, and just one tiny example of the drummer’s formidable range. Hadrien Feroud on bass guitar and Charles Altura, guitar, contribute heavily to the album’s success, and it’s an album you need to stop everything you’re doing and listen to actively. Some of the longer tunes have an episodic quality, and the playing is very expressive; there’s no holding back. ‘Royalty’, Chick’s tribute to Roy Haynes, is tender and heartfelt, less jazz-rock than the rest of the album perhaps. Chick’s wife Gayle Moran Corea adds vocals to ‘Outside of Space’, the shortest of the tracks, and ‘Legacy’ at the end is a great rumbling rhythm burner to gorge on, where Corea moves into overdrive. A remarkable album from all concerned.