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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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Into the Vinyl Vault: Vol. 3- Chick Corea's Circling In

mdupar's picture
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My apologies for the hiatus, it is admittedly less than ideal to launch a weekly installment that only goes for two weeks before hitting it's first speed bump. After reading through your 2 million plus emails and this strange handwritten letter that came by way of carrier pigeon from somebody whose name rhymes with Marack O-llama, all of which demanded the next installment, I've decided to move forward with Into the Vinyl Vault (as I would have even without your collective outcry). Now before you all take to the streets and go off to get 88.9 tattooed on your bums, I must inform you that after this week and next weeks installments there will be yet another hiatus. I'll be off in Europe, and if everything goes as planned, unreachable. The planning for said trip had fused into some ravenous monster of distracting powers (that and the world's greatest sporting event) that kept me from vinyl diggings these past two weeks, so once again my apologies.

Anyways there are records to be unearthed and this installment features Chick Corea's Circling In. And once again it would seem that the vinyl gods shine down favorably upon me, because this Chick Corea is one groovy key slapper. I'd known of the man for some time, heard of his rise to prominence with the help of Miles Davis but I'd never really listened to much of his music. Circling In is an interesting jumping off point for an amateur jazz nerd because it is often cited as one of Corea's most experimental records. Incredibly the album sleeve manages to depict Miles Davis as some sort of evil warden for the Bitches Brew Jazz Prison, who would only let inmate Corea smoke his dope and listen to Sun Ra for an hour every week. Thus this album is meant to serve as an insight into what Corea's individual artistic interests were outside of Davis between 1968-70.

Circling In is also the first adventure of the group known as Circle, which most notably included Corea, Dave Holland on bass, Roy Haynes on percussion and Anthony Braxton on woodwinds. The album compiles various recordings between the aforementioned years and functions as one of a few records to give insight into Corea's affinity for avante garde jazz, prior to becoming one of the major purveyors of jazz fusion.

Throughout Circling In Corea becomes increasingly abstract. The first record of the double LP, while undoubtably loose, still feels tied to Corea's sonic roots, which makes sense considering that most of the tracks came from the 1968 recording. But by the time you reach the second LP of Circling In Corea has honed his weirdness into completely fragmented spasms that dart out of the empty space and down notes like rabid muggers. After the schizophrenic belches of “Starp” Corea drops the listener into a gong wash, which segways into something sounding like a broken clock, which made my cat look at me with an expression of deep judgement and paranoia. Delving deep into the internet to research after experiencing the strangeness of side 3 and 4 of the record, I half expected to find some sort of acid manifesto penned by Corea and Ken Kesey that told of the exact method to conjure a griffin with only a Ouija board and a bag of Cheetos. Had I found it I would've gladly shared it with you all. That said Circling In is definitively one of the most surprising records I've heard in quite some time and is totally F'in weird, but in a good way.

Good interview from the 70's here