The Chick Corea Songbook
4Q FQT-CD-1819 (www.kochcan.com)
One of the hallmarks of a great musician is the desire to continually seek out new musical challenges. The temptation to please your fans and record company by sticking to the tried and true is ever present, so The Manhattan Transfer’s willingness to stretch themselves by tackling “The Chick Corea Songbook” is highly laudable. Not only are these songs incredibly difficult to sing, but many are revered by jazz fans, so any reinvention risks being viewed as musical blasphemy. But if any vocal group is up to the challenge it’s the eight-time Grammy award-winning Manhattan Transfer. Arranger Yousuf Gandhi has done marvellous things with these songs; interweaving multiple melodies, drawing on a variety of cultures for fresh sounds and alternating between a small army of musicians and synthesizers on some songs, and just stripped back voice and piano on others. Spain has been broken into two parts and while the Prelude is a bit strained, when it moves into the medium groove of the main song and is given a funky bhangra treatment, it feels completely right. Free Samba is a mini carnival with its clever evocation of a Brazilian rainforest and an electrifying solo by Corea himself, and Another Roadside Attraction is a complex marvel that could be a case study for aspiring vocal arrangers. This isn’t a readily accessible record, but for fans of the Transfer and Corea it is an adventure well worth taking.