Chick Corea has long been a master of improvisation. Whether in a solo or group context, his abilities to create magic out of thin air have never failed to impress. He also pioneered the relatively recent development of two-piano improvisation, by working with players such as Herbie Hancock, Friedrich Gulda, Nicolas Economou, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. For his first ECM recording in 27 years, Corea was teamed with Stefano Bollani for an advanced class in two-piano improvisation.
The two have been playing together since 2009, mostly at Italian jazz festivals. The performances captured on Orvieto are from the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival, where the duo played several nights of concerts. The musical program they have chosen reflects their eclectic roots. Between such Corea/Bollani originals as the opening “Orvieto Impression No. 1” and closing “Blues In F,” the pair cover a great deal of stylistic ground.
The first of these is the bossa nova king Antonio Carlos Jobim, and his “Retrato Em Branco E Preto.” Corea and Bollani’s fingers seem to dance around each other in the first few bars of the tune, then settle in for a riveting display of the melody, all the while never losing sight of what the other is doing. The near-telepathic interplay between the two is fully on display here. As Bollani has stated, “It is as if one mind were controlling four hands.”
An early highlight comes when the two tackle Fats Waller’s classic “Jitterbug Waltz.” The tune has always been a great piano showcase, and in this environment, both Corea and Bollani give it their all. Another universally acclaimed jazz legend is Miles Davis, and he is honored here with a rendition of “Nardis.”
Both Chick Corea and Stefano Bollani seem to have been looking toward South America a bit this night. They include a second Antonio Carlos Jobim track here, “Este Seu Olhar,” as well as a Corea original, “Armando’s Rhumba.”
With their concluding “Blues In F,” the two finish as they began, with some wonderfully inventive improvisation. Their styles run the artistic gamut and are on display not only on this final piece, but throughout the 75-minute concert. Chick Corea and Stefano Bollani are both outstanding improvisers, and the proof of it is right here on Orvieto. Here’s hoping they get out of Italy for a bit, and bring some of this magic to a US tour soon.