Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band: Antidote

Jeff Tamarkin on August 9, 2019
Chick Corea &  The Spanish Heart Band: Antidote

CONCORD JAZZ At age 78, Chick Corea could easily coast, but that’s never been his way. Throughout his career, the pianist/ keyboardist/composer has sought new avenues of expression, and while he’s often revisited past concepts, it’s always been with the intent of expanding and redefining what’s come before. The Spanish Heart Band’s Antidote is one of Corea’s reexaminations—this time, of his Spanish roots. (His ancestry is a mix of Spanish and Italian.) The band name references 1976’s My Spanish Heart , one of his most crucial albums, as well as Touchstone , a 1982 release. On both, Corea explored various strains of Spanish/Latin music, applying his considerable jazz sensibilities to the works. He’s done the same here, bringing in a team of virtuosic Latin musicians—particularly a swinging horn crew—and other aces clearly tuned in to the music. Some of the tracks are reimaginations of tunes from those two albums, including “My Spanish Heart,” which is given a dramatic two-part treatment: The introduction features an ethereal vocal choir led by Gayle Moran Corea, Chick Corea’s life partner, while the body of the song showcases the great Rubén Blades, the versatile Panamanian vocalist. Corea is happy to cede the spotlight to his chosen instrumentalists, resulting in a number of stirring exchanges: The two-part “Yellow Nimbus” finds the masterful Spanish flamenco guitarist Niño Josele trading licks with Corea’s piano. And, he stretches the album’s boundaries with “Pas de Deux,” an all-too-brief (at under two minutes) snippet of Stravinsky. Chick Corea is never less than stimulating as musician and bandleader, one who is always willing to challenge himself. More often than not—and Antidote is one of those times—the gamble pays off.