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JAZZ SPOTLIGHT : *** 1/2; CHICK COREA, "Expressions" ( GRP )

July 10, 1994|ZAN STEWART

The tireless Corea performs unaccompanied on this 14-tune collection of pop standards, jazz classics and originals, and it's a delight to hear the sound of his piano unadorned. Though decidedly a modernist, Corea reveals his profound knowledge of the history of jazz piano: Bud Powell's "Oblivion" is done a la Art Tatum, the evenness of his lines on "Someone to Watch Over Me" has a Teddy Wilson-like clarity, the swirls of color on "Stella by Starlight" recall the pastel palette of Bill Evans.

Still, this is Corea's show, and it's his diamond-bright, then dusky sound, his dancer's touch, his sparkling asides that land gingerly in our ears. He chooses a grand repertoire. Billy Strayhorn's classic "Lush Life" is given a four-note repetitive bass part that makes it move with uncommon force, while "This Nearly Was Mine" is delivered almost without ornamentation. "I Want to Be Happy" is curiously angular and jarring, while "It Could Happen to You" weaves between melody notes and boppish exclamations that spin and spark.

Corea also offers two Monk works, and again shows that he, along with Barry Harris and few others, completely comprehends that great man's approach. Listen to "Pannonica" and you hear the composer's understated, descending murmurs, his brilliant right-hand voicings. Magic.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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