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Corea and Gadd in fusion

By Abigail Church |

A reunion for the pianist Chick Corea and the drummer Steve Gadd...

With this reunion symbolized by Chinese Butterfly, Chick Corea and Steve Gadd don’t just set their solid friendship in stone, but rekindle the flame of the jazz fusion with funky tendancies from the 70s - when the genre was reigning; both for the best and for the worst, by the way…

For the occasion, the pianist and the drummer have gathered together a strong cast with guitarist and singer Lionel Loueke, saxophonist and flautist Steve Wilson, bass player Carlitos Del Puerto and percussionist Luisito Quintero. The first time that Corea and Gadd's paths crossed was in 1965, when the former briefly joined Chuck Mangione’s band, in which the latter was performing. In the ten years that followed, Corea became one of the most influential keyboard players and composers of his generation. At the same time, Gadd was quickly recognized as a big name in the drum community, astounding Paul Simon and Steely Dan among others. In 1972, Chick Corea decided to transform his group Return to Forever, with which he had until then explored the richness of Latin and Brazilian music, into a jazz rock band of which Steve Gadd became the first drummer. His numerous commitments as a studio musician would prove incompatible with the long tour planned by the band, which didn't prevent him from later taking part in the recording of several of Corea’s albums such as The Leprechaun released in 1976, My Spanish Heart, a brilliant blend of electric jazz and Latin rhythms (whose echo can be heard throughout Chinese Butterfly) and Three Quartets in 1981, a profound shift in Corea’s composing career.

When the two musicians finally meet up in Chick Corea’s studio in Florida at the beginning of 2017, the alchemy was once again immediate, propelling the composer into a creative frenzy that quickly gave birth to two tracks, Like I Was Sayin’ and Gadd-zooks. “I’ve always enjoyed composing music for a band, and hearing what Steve would do with my compositions, explains Chick Corea. When we started playing those two tunes together, it felt so good that we started to talk about putting a band together.” Though he’s credited as the only composer of most of the eight tracks of the album, Corea maintains that the record is the result of teamwork and that it would never have seen the light of day without Gadd’s rhythmic sensitivity. “It’s a co-creation, the pianist insists. I write the compositions, and Steve puts together the form of the rhythm, which is the backbone of the band. In my music, rhythm is everything – if the music doesn't have the right emotion and rhythm, it can’t live.

It’s a sincere complicity that gives birth to an album filled with emotion and virtuosity. It’s worth noting that Phil Bailey, the great falsetto from the original cast of Earth, Wind & Fire, makes a strong appearance on this record which is in phase with its cover, where the instruments of the different members are arranged to form a butterfly: two pianos form the wings, the drums the head and the thorax.

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