Jazz piano meets the banjo on a new recording by two of today's most-respected musicians, pianist Chick Corea and banjoist Bela Fleck. VOA's Doug Levine tells us about this unlikely musical pairing and their enchanting new CD, The Enchantment.
As unlikely as it might seem for Chick Corea and Bela Fleck to team up and record a duets album, when you hear the duo play together, it makes perfect sense. Although both are virtuosos on their respected instruments, as expert improvisers, arrangers and composers, they sound as if they've been performing together for years.
While The Enchantment is Bela Fleck and Chick Corea's first-ever full-length collaboration, it isn't the first time the two have worked side-by-side. Corea appeared on two albums with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones in the 1990s. Fleck returned the favor by playing banjo on Corea's live album Rendezvous In New York, featuring singer Bobby McFerrin.
Fleck says he realized that the banjo would work in the context of jazz after hearing a recording of Chick Corea's composition Spain. He calls it "one of those defining moments." Likewise, Chick Corea has always been fascinated by Fleck's music, saying, "When I first listened to The Flecktones, I heard a completely fresh sound."
The Enchantment not only unites two giants of the jazz world, but it melds a variety of musical influences; from ragtime, blues and classical to bluegrass, country, Latin and world music. Bela composed six songs on the album and Chick wrote four.
Chick Corea and Bela Fleck made their debut as a duo with a February concert in Daytona Beach, Florida. After a short break, their Enchantment tour resumes in June with appearances at two jazz festivals and a bluegrass festival.