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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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MANHATTAN TRANSFER

The Chick Corea Songbook

Four Quarters Entertainment
FQT-CD-1819

 

 


1. Free Samba
2. Prelude
3. Spain (I Can Recall)
4. One Step Closer (The One Step)
5. Children's Song No.15
6. 500 Miles High
7. Another Roadside Attraction (Space Circus)
8. Time's Lie
9. La Chanson Du Bébé (Children's Song No. 1)
10. Ragtime in Pixiland (Pixiland Rag)
11. The Story of Anna & Armando (Armando's Rhumba)
12. Free Samba (Extended version)

Collective personnel
Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel - Vocals
Chick Corea - Yamaha Motif XS8
Airto - Percussion
Alex Acuna - Percussion;
Bais Haus - Synthesizer, drum programming
Billy Drummond - Drums
Christian McBride - Acoustic bass
Conrad Herwig - Trombone
Don Shelton - Whistle solo
Edsel Gomez - Piano
Fred Hersch - Piano
Gary Novak - Drums
Gary Wicks - Electric bass, fretless bass
Janet Vrudney, Jack Wylie Bryant, Scott Gilmore - Handbells
Jimmy Earl - Electric bass
Joe Passaro - Marimba
John Benitez - Electric bass
John Hebert - Acoustic bass
Lou Marini - Flute, alto flute
Luisito Quintero - Percussion, congas, timbales
Mike Pinella, Robert Rodriguez - Trumpets
Ramon Stagnero - Acoustic guitar
Ronnie Cuber - Baritone sax
Scott Kinsey - Keyboards
Steve Hass - Drums..
Steve Tavaglione - Soprano sax, EWI
Vince Cherico - Drums
Yaron Gershovsky - Fender Rhodes, keyboards, programming

 

Chick Corea is famous primarily for his instrumental music rather than any songs he has written with lyrics. So why is a vocal group taking on his compositions? Don't worry - Manhattan Transfer can tackle the most difficult tasks and make them look easy. This quartet is in the line of many preceding vocal groups - for example, the Mills Brothers and the Four Freshmen - who brought a jazz sensibility to vocal harmonising. Although most of the pieces on this album were originally instrumentals, lyrics have been supplied by a variety of people, including Chick Corea himself.

The result is a pleasurable album, thanks not only to the vocal dexterity of Man Tran but also to Chick's melodic inventiveness. Most of his compositions have a warm, joyful feel which is captured in these vocal renditions. The opening Free Samba (specially composed by Corea for this album) is immediately appealing, particularly because Chick brings his trademark Yamaha keyboard sound to the mix, bending notes and driving the music forwards.

Having tried to play Spain myself, I know how difficult it is to get it right. Manhattan Transfer wisely take the tune at a slowish tempo to help them negotiate its complexity. The group also seems to add more of Rodriguez's original Concierto de Aranjuez, upon which Spain is based. For contrast, Man Tran perform two of Chick's gentle Children's Songs (the latter being entitled La Chanson du Bébé).

The only thing that lets this album down is the repetition of vocal phrases in some tracks - such as Another Roadside Attraction, where the chanted riffs tend to conflict with the appeal of the original melody (Space Circus). The same tendency affects La Chanson du Bébé and Ragtime in Pixiland, with the chirping voices eventually getting on one's nerves. The sound is much more attractive in songs like 500 Miles High and The Story of Anna & Armando, where a solo voice is backed by a heavenly chorus.

Experiments in vocalese like this sometimes fail because the words have to be gabbled to fit the music but this is avoided on such tracks as Spain (I Can Recall), where the lyrics are delivered with admirable clarity. Manhattan Transfer comprises four superb singers, as you can hear when they take solos as well as when they harmonise togther. So overall this album is a success, achieving a difficult task through the combined efforts of excellent vocalists and musicians.

Tony Augarde



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