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Trondheim Jazz Orchestra

Following the success of his first encounter with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra 10 years ago, documented on 2005’s Live in Molde, Chick Corea will recreate that rare chemistry in a Scandanavian tour this November. For the master composer and 16-time Grammy Award-winning pianist, traveling to Norway for that initial collaboration with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra was an adventure that yielded great rewards and many surprises along the way.

“When I agreed to go to Norway and play with a band I hadn’t heard, performing arrangements of my music by an arranger I didn’t know, I knew it would at least be professional—but really didn’t know what to expect,” said Chick in the liner notes to Live in Molde.

What composer-arranger-bandleader Erlend Skomsvoll came up with for that gala appearance at the 2000 Moldejazz Festival was truly unique and inspiring. “My approach was to find a healthy balance between Chick’s hits and his less well-known compositions, and to hire musicians with varied, complementary and highly individual skills,” said Skomsvoll.

As Chick commented, “From the first rehearsal, I was blown away and really impressed by the high creative quality of everything. Erlend made the most creative arrangements of my songs that I’ve heard. He didn’t just do a good job. He added his own imaginative views of my songs with new combinations, sounds and constructions, and he did a magnificent job.”

Their chemistry is evident throughout Live in Molde. Following an opening dialogue between Chick’s piano and Tor Yttredal’s soaring soprano sax, the full 16-piece ensemble launches into an invigorating fugue-like interpretation of “Crystal Silence,” a Corea composition that he introduced in 1972 on his arresting duets project with vibraphonist Gary Burton, Crystal Silence. and reprised several times throughout his career, most recently on 2008’s Grammy Award winning The New Crystal Silence. Skomsvoll invents a grand brass overture to “Windows,” the briskly swinging waltz-time composition that Corea premiered on his classic 1968 trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drumming legend Roy Haynes). Saxophonist Atle Nymo contributes a bold-toned, bracing tenor solo here.

Pianist and orchestra hit an incendiary accord on “Matrix,” an up-tempo swinger from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.  Corea’s comping is typically playful behind an uncommonly facile tuba solo by Oystein Baadsvik, while the sax section makes like Woody Herman’s Four Brothers with their unison horn accents on this exhilarating arrangement. Trombonist Oyvind Braekke, alto sax burner Frode Nymo and tenor saxophonist Kjetil Moster also contribute stellar, impassioned improvisations on this energized romp. Chick also engages in some rapid-fire freewheeling exchanges with bassist Steinar Raknes and drummer Kaon Mjaset Johansen near the end of this kinetic 14-minute number.

The dramatic “Duende” (introduced on 1982’s Touchstone) is a feature for the bold and beautiful trumpet lines of Mathias Eick while Skomsvoll’s arrangement of Corea’s jaunty “Bud Powell” harkens back to the mellow sound of Miles Davis’ 1949 Birth of the Cool sessions. Trumpeter Bodo Tore Johansen, baritone saxophonist John Pal Inderberg and Chick individually deliver potent solos on this lightly swinging melodic gem.

Chick switches to electric piano for a stirring, cinematic treatment of “Return to Forever” (title track of the 1972 ECM album that introduced the first lineup of that legendary band). A reharmonized brass fanfare of “Spain,” perhaps Corea’s most famous composition, serves as an intro to “Armando’s Rhumba” (from 1976’s My Spanish Heart). Teeming with heightened solos, palmas (rhythm handclaps) and danceable energy, this smoking son montuno-styled set-closer put an exclamation point on Chick’s appearance at Moldejazz and hinted a great things to come in future collaborations with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.

The last tour was October 27 to November 1 in Molde, Trondheim, Oslo, Umea and Stockholm. All the shows were recorded, but not released yet.

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