“Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” has long been considered one of Corea’s best recordings, featuring some of his best writing and a group (bassist Miroslav Vitous, drummer Roy Haynes) that must be considered one of the great piano trios. That it was out of print at one time is incomprehensible, but this, its second reissue, is great. Not only has Blue Note preserved the track order (tracks 1-5, with approximately 40 minutes of playing time comprise the original LP, followed by eight bonus tracks), but the 24-bit remastering renders the performances crystal clear.
“Steps–What Was,” the first track, is nearly 14 minutes long, but the trio manages to ensure that the listener never becomes bored. Corea starts off with some piano musings that call forth the spirit of his hard bop mentor, Horace Silver, while still managing the light touch of Bill Evans. Roy Haynes takes a drum solo around five or six minutes in, much of it venturing out of time and suggesting free jazz.
This is one of the beauties of Now He Sings Now He Sobs–it rests somewhere between what had been done by post-bop innovators and what was being done by free jazz artists at the time it was recorded. When the trio comes back in, Corea explores a modal, paso-doble progression that would come up in all of his subsequent music, be it acoustic or heavily electric. In fact, it could be argued that the blueprint for everything Chick Corea would choose to explore in his lengthy career was suggested right here.
Corea had begun his career as a leader in 1966, and contributed to recordings by Stan Getz and Donald Byrd by the time Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was recorded. The recording was instantly recognized in the jazz community as signalling the arrival of a major talent. “Matrix” and “Windows” are considered to be contemporary standards, but the other works on the album are much less fleshed out, relying on a great deal of improvisation between the trio members.
It is in this respect that the album most resembled the freer aspects of jazz playing. In fact, Chick went on to explore much freer playing as the new keyboardist in Miles Davis’s band (these sessions were recorded in March 1968; in August Chick joined Miles’s group, replacing Herbie Hancock). While playing with Miles, Corea worked with bassist Dave Holland, who was also interested in much freer playing than Miles’s group allowed at the time. In 1970, after participating in the Bitches Brew sessions, Chick and Dave formed the trio Circle with drummer Barry Altschul. The group later became a quartet with the addition of Anthony Braxton, and they explored free improvisation a great deal.
The additional tracks are all very interesting and add a lot to the album. “Samba Yantra,” originally recorded on a Donald Byrd session, is an excellent composition with plenty of rhythmic exploration, while “Bossa” is a quiet, impressionistic piece that recalls Bill Evans. There is also “Gemini,” which is essentially a piano improvisation followed by a bass improvisation, and a version of Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica” that demonstrates Chick Corea’s mastery of bop and post-bop forms while firmly establishing an individual voice. The reissue concludes with a beautiful rendition of “My One and Only Love” that demonstrates both the place of this trio in jazz tradition as well as its uniqueness.
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