Béla Fleck and Chick Corea - Taylor Crothers

Béla Fleck Releases Final Album With Chick Corea In ‘Rememberance’

I love the pairing of strings in jazz – take the 1962 collaboration between pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall on “Undercurrent.” The album still stands as one of my favorites including it’s renditions of “My Funny Valentine” and “Darn That Dream.”

Maybe I was caught in the “Undercurrent” as the latest collaboration between late pianist Chick Corea who died in 2021 and banjo player Béla Fleck was released Friday, May 10, 2024. “Remembrance” is the final installment between the duo that began back in 2007 with “The Enchantment,” which won a Latin Grammy.

“I just feel so lucky to have played with him in such an intimate way, and to have gotten to know him so well,” Fleck said in a release about the album. “It’s one of the greatest things that’s happened to me, and I don’t think anything’s going to top it.”

Chick Corea and Bela Fleck - Remembrance

The album was recored in-part live during their 2019 tour together as well as remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic and sounds as vibrant and invigorating today as a testiment to the future-thinking musicians.

“We pushed this duo to a new place before we ran out of time,” Fleck said. “We have here another cool look at Chick Corea, at the different ways that he can play that we wouldn’t have had. There’s a lot of great Chick Corea out there, and this is different.”

From playing with Miles Davis on “Bitches Brew” as well as “Filles de Kilimanjaro,” “In a Silent Way,” and “On the Corner,” Corea may be best known for the transformative work he did to jazz fusion with his band Return To Forever.

The pair seem to hop down a meandering path like on a J.R.R. Tolkien expedition on “The Otter Creek Indicient,” which opens that album and is among the standout songs. The track begins with Corea setting the stage, while Fleck slowly begins to emerge in the forefront. Corea supports him beautifully by filling in the colorful landscape behind them both.

The album is also punctuated with five short impromptus, which showcases the excellence of Fleck’s pairing of written music.

“I always noticed Chick would play these unbelievable improvisations before we’d start songs. And I wanted to get in there and play on those, because they were so expansive and unusual every single time,” Fleck said. “So I asked him to record some of those. He knocked them out in a few minutes, and I labored over them. I thought, ‘What could go with this? What would actually make this into a classical composition?’ I came up with banjo arrangements that basically supplied melody and counter rhythms.”

The album includes several unreleased Corea originals, including “Enut Nital,” which dances spritely as the pair square off in a series of scales that come together halfway through the track.

Other Corea originals include “Continuance” and the title track.

“‘Remembrance’ is a great new Corea piece — just one of those perfect Chick Corea tunes,” Fleck said. “It sounds to me like a New Orleans funeral march, even though it has a Latin component, like everything he did tended to. But in a way, it’s also like he wrote his own funeral song.”

The way the two interpret the great Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” is one of those awe-inspiring moments. It is breathtaking to hear these two amazing musicians take the work of a legendary pianist like Monk and turn it inside out into a new piece of art.

The track “Juno” sounds jubilant as the banjo and piano strings play an intricate dance between them. You can almost see the notes jump from the page with excitement as the pair rips through them – making the nearly six-minute track feel like a fraction of that time.

The duo also tackles the 18th-century Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti in “Scarlatti’s Sonatas,” which, although written for the keyboard, seem to be made for the Fleck’s fretboard.

Throughout these final 14 tracks between Béla Fleck and Chick Corea, their musical mastery and friendship shine through, leaving us with merely an hour and three minutes to ponder how this collaboration could transcend genres for years.

“He found the good in everything,” Fleck said. “I’m just so glad to be a part of this — glad I could be with him, and glad there’s more to share. We pushed the bar up a little higher in terms of what was possible.”

See Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer and Rakesh Chaurasia June 16 at  Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. See Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio Sept. 10-15 at the Blue Note in New York City, New York and see Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn Oct. 17 at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts in York, Pennslyvania.

Get “Remembrance” from Béla Fleck, Amazon, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora and qubuz.

Favorite Tracks

The Otter Creek Incident
Enut Nital
Impromptu II: Mock Turtle
Bemsha Swing
Lucky Bounce
Scarlatti Sonatas
Small Potatoes