Music

Chick Corea and Bèla Fleck: The Enchantment

This ain't simply bluegrass banjo, and it's certainly more than "just" jazz piano.


Chick Corea and Bèla Fleck

The Enchantment

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2007-05-22
UK Release Date: 2007-06-11
Amazon
iTunes

Two musicians playing only two instruments -- indeed, The Enchantment is a duet recording in the truest sense of the word. And while the term "virtuoso" shouldn't be tossed around lightly, few would deem banjoist Bèla Fleck and pianist Chick Corea unworthy of the appellation. The Enchantment, therefore, is "virtuoso times two". But that's not all. Fleck and Corea are also composers par excellence. Six of The Enchantment's eleven tracks were written by Fleck, and the rest -- excluding a well-considered cover of "Brazil" -- are Corea compositions.

But, I hear you thinking, the piano and banjo? This seemingly incongruous pairing would, in the wrong hands, surely result in a plunky, tinkly mess. Fleck and Corea are not the wrong hands. These masters utilize their instrumental and compositional versatility to create music that surpasses both genres and expectations. This ain't simply bluegrass banjo, and it's certainly more than "just" jazz piano. Fleck uses the short sustain of the banjo's plucks for leads, fills, and rhythmic propulsion, while Corea matches a precise amount of notes and impetus. Listening to The Enchantment under the scrutiny of headphones is often amazing and, yes, frequently enchanting.

The Latin tinge of opener "Señorita" tips you off -- this is a Corea tune. In an impressive display of interplay, the two musicians effortlessly and spaciously finesse his Latin rhythms, sans rhythm section. Fleck's "Spectacle" follows, and he initially steps well into the forefront with leads that Corea underpins beautifully. The song then morphs into a hillbilly jazz explosion, as both instruments grapple for the song's spotlight before merging into a dazzling interchange leading to a unison finale, with each instrumentalist matching the other note for note.

The Enchantment boasts variety aplenty. The lanky "Joban Dna Nopia" subtly swings, while "Mountain" is a bluegrass breakdown re-imagined through a piano prism. The title track is a lovely mesh of classical and jazz influences, and the duo reconstruct Fleck's normally-festive live fave "Sunset Road" into a thoughtful and elegant closer. At the end of these 54 minutes, you will have forgotten about the supposed "necessity" of a rhythm section and the "improbability" of the banjo/piano duo.

This album is certainly not the first duet project for either musician. Corea has successfully paired with Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, and Gary Burton, while Fleck recorded 2004's Music for Two with bassist Edgar Meyer and, twenty years prior, released an album of jazzgrass duets called Double Time. In recent years, Corea has recorded with Fleck's "blu-bop" ensemble the Flecktones, and Fleck and his banjo added to the festivity of Corea's 60th birthday bash at the Blue Note. After these performances (captured on both CD and DVD as Rendezvous in New York), the duo decided to tour together and record; The Enchantment is the result.

There's only one glaring omission from the album -- I'm puzzled why a reworking of Corea's "Spain" isn't included. Fleck covered it early in his career and the song frequently appears on Flecktone setlists. And I would've welcomed at least one all-out, full-throttle bluegrass barnburner with a stridingly percussive piano exchange -- something to add a little "Yee-Haw Factor". Otherwise, The Enchantment plays like a charm.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Music

Folk's Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in 'Time Traveler' (album stream)

John Prine's former guitarist and musical director, Jason Wilber steps out with a new album, Time Traveler, featuring irreverent, pensive, and worldly folk music.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.