Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Chick Corea Elektric Band - 1991 "Beneath The Mask"

Beneath the Mask is an album by Chick Corea Elektric Band, released in 1991 through the record label GRP. The album peaked at number two on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Beneath the Mask is the easiest and breeziest Elektric Band album in years, with Latin-flavored melodies that are concise and downright hummable. Corea’s atmospheric harmonies manage to be seductive without evaporating into nothingness. On “One of Us Is Over 40,” the band even slips into a very friendly (and uncharacteristically African) lope. Corea weaves his tricks into a seamless musical fabric. And the Elektric Band — Corea, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl, guitarist Frank Gambale, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal-has never sounded better.

You can always expect some of the best musicianship anywhere from a Chick Corea album. Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl are two of the most renowned musicians at their instruments, and guitarist Frank Gambale, with his burning “sweet picking” style, isn’t far behind. Saxman Eric Marienthal has matured considerably in Corea’s ranks. So, musically speaking, Beneath the Mask is typically solid. The only question is, “What is Chick doing now?”

The new Corea is geared more towards commercial jazz, if you can call it jazz. Even though his music has always been pre-composed, his new material provides even less of a vehicle for improvisation. It does maintain an intense level of musicianship, but the compositional element of the old Corea has given way to a more groove-orientated sound. Corea, like the rest of the world, is getting funky (another musical element to which the world is indebted to New Orleans); on several numbers, Patatucci slaps the bass and Gambale scratches the guitar while drummer Weckl’s busy hands could confound an octopus (although his playing is subtle and seemingly effortless).

Highlights include “One of Us Is Forty,” a driving funk tune with busy Fender Rhodes rocking from Corea and a catchy chord melody. Corea falls into an increasingly familiar tour-de-force rock-out formula here, with everyone playing in unison on fast, pumped-up lines at the front of the stage. Left over from his Return to Forever days, this formula is what he uses to end his sets. “Illusions” starts with spacious chords in a repeating bass riff, goes into a fast groove, then to the tour de force formula and into a Spanish segment reminiscent of much of Corea’s past work. “A Wave Goodbye” is a spacy, reflective rainy day piece with a sad saxophone melody. “Charged Particles” is more serious, classically-influenced fusion, with fast straight rhythm melodies and a grinding keyboard part, under an evil guitar solo.

"Beneath The Mask" would be the last album that the "classic" Elektric Band would record for 12 years, and after their previous 2 outings featured Chick on a grand piano, he obtained an electric midi-Rhodes piano and the amazing Yamaha SY-99 synthesizer,and as a result,the album was punchier, funkier and more direct-to-the-point than their previous two outings "Eye Of The Beholder" and "Inside Out".

As usual, one band member was featured on the lion's share of the cuts. Electric guitar was a large focus on this collection, so Frank Gambale came to the fore, contributing excellent solos on "Little Things That Count", "Lifescape", "Free Step", an acoustic contribution on "A Wave Goodbye", as well as part of the trade-offs on "Illusions".

His finest moment, however, is one of the CCEB's greatest accomplishments as a combo, "Charged Particles". The band was amazingly tight, the tempo changes and shifts handled beautifully, and it all sets up a Gambale showcase, where he combines alternate picking along with his classic "sweep style" for 5 minutes and change of sheer fusion bliss.

Eric Marienthal found a new voice as well, opting for soprano sax as opposed to his normal alto, the title track, "One Of Us Is Over 40", "Jammin' E. Cricket" and "Illusions" all benefit from this stylistic change.

John Patitucci holds the bottom end on bass and "Jammin" E. Cricket" shows what he can do.

Dave Weckl's drumming, as always is superlative and energetic.

Chick himself was obviously having a lot of fun, best showcased on "99 Flavors" which he composed as a sample tune for Yamaha's SY-99 keyboard before recording it with the group.


Track listing:

1. Beneath the mask (3:33)
2. Little things that count (3:50)
3. One of us is over 40 (4:57)
4. A wave goodbye (4:46)
5. Lifescape (5:12)
6. Jammin E. Cricket (6:54)
7. Charged particles (5:21)
8. Free step (7:47)
9. 99 flavors (3:56)
10. Illusions (9:45)

Total Time 56.09


Chick Corea – keyboards, mini moog, mixing, producer, synclavier, synthesizer
Frank Gambale – guitar, synthesizer guitar
Eric Marienthal – alto and soprano saxophone
John Patitucci – bass
Dave Weckl – drums, mixing, percussion


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