Chick Corea pays admiral tribute to one of the great bebop pianists of the 1940s and ’50s in his new Stretch/Concord release “Remembering Bud Powell.” Once that recording group takes the bandstand, however, it’s a different matter: Corea makes sure each of the heavyweights in his supporting cast is given ample room to dis-play their talents.
It was most evident in the closing two tunes of the first set, Powell’s “Willow Grove” and Thelonious Monk’s “Four in One,” starting with a spiraling solo from bassist Christian McBride before saxophonist Kenny Garrett took the tune to the border of hard bop and free jazz. For more than a half-hour, the quintet lept with spontaneity at every chance, relishing the creative moment rather than obeying any dictum forcing the musicians to stay within the confines of a Powell tribute band.
While granting ample space to his cohorts, Corea lent a dissonant touch to the ensemble work — a perfect foil for Roy Haynes’ rolling drums — and found his place in solo territory with cascading runs that brought the tempo to his liking. Sans backing, Corea went in the direction he mastered two decades ago on his “Solo Piano Improvisations” discs for ECM; the briskness seen here suggests he has lost none of his improvising faculties, only a lack of an updated vocabulary for a wild acoustic session such as this.
Rest of the evening was spent using Powell’s compositions as springboards to modern interpretations, most of which were introduced by Corea and trumpeter Wallace Roney in the manner of Powell and Fats Navarro. The band neatly straddled the fence of allegiance and interpretation, bringing Powell’s neglected composing skills into focus for a new generation to absorb.