The Chick Corea + Steve Gadd Band, "Chinese Butterfly" (Concord Jazz)
Compared to other genres, flexibility of lineups is one of the most fascinating aspects of jazz bands. Musicians are constantly looking for new partners, reuniting with old ones, the musical colors of ensembles shifting as this sax player or that guitarist comes and goes and another one sits in.
The leaders of The Chick Corea + Steve Gadd Band have played together occasionally for over 50 years but "Chinese Butterfly" is the first joint album by the keyboardist/composer and the drummer under that not-so-imaginative name. Beyond that small grievance, however, there's an album full of creativity and chops.
The first half is comprised of five "shorter" tracks, each below 12 minutes. Leading the way is "Chick's Chums," a funky, relatively recent Corea tribute written by John McLaughlin with a decidedly 1970s vibe, a powerful sax solo by Steve Wilson and a wide range of Gadd dynamics. "Serenity" has some gentle Brazilian breezes and the disc closes with the title track, a real group effort with strong contributions by all band members, also including guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke, Carlitos Del Puerto on bass and percussionist Luisito Quintero.
A cover of "Return to Forever" featuring Philip Bailey on vocals opens the second half. This version of the title track from the 1972 album — the Corea-led eponymous band's first configuration — starts and ends with the same spine-chilling interplay between keyboards and vocals as on the original, but in between it's Gadd who really turns up the heat.
The band has been presenting the album in concerts on several continents over the past months to great acclaim. Even after Corea and Gadd move on to other projects, "Chinese Butterfly" will remain as an impressive memento of their present collaboration.