Forgive Chick Corea his Scientology devotion and many mediocre fusion discs during the 1970s and 1980s — he’s still a tremendous acoustic pianist with a warm, melodious approach. In part to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Bill Evans’ classic album Explorations, Corea hooked up with two Evans alumni, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Paul Motian, in May 2010 to record an homage to Evans’ legacy at New York’s Blue Note.
Aside from his excellence as a jazz pianist, Evans (who influenced Miles Davis while playing in Miles’ sextet in the late Fifties) was notable for the way he reconceived the piano trio. Before then, the bassist and drummer more or less accompanied the pianist, who served as a de facto bandleader. Evans developed the concept of all three members being on equal footing improvisation-wise, along with the notion of less-as-more (i.e., leaving spaces that’d be as expressive as the notes played). Corea, Gomez, and Motian embody those principles brilliantly throughout this two-disc set. They perform Evans’ tunes, standards associated with him, and a few originals. The collective composition “Off the Cuff” is a simmering-to-boiling hard bop that nonetheless maintains Evans’ sublime methodology. What’s fascinating is the way this threesome takes on the Thelonious Monk standard “Little Rootie Tootie”— their interpretation of Monk’s spiky, oblique lyricism is like a splash of freezing cold water after the measured, slyly festive Corea appreciation “Bill Evans.” The late Motian (he passed in November 2011) was to percussion what Evans was to the keyboard — an impressionist, and Gomez plays with prodigious technique and deepest subtlety. Aces back-to-back, this is. (Concord)