Play (1990) is an unusual, essential album of live, collaborative improvising between world-class pianist Chick Corea and master vocal improviser Bobby McFerrin. One of the best things about watching a live jazz concert is seeing how into it the musicians are. While you can’t see the players’ faces you can feel the pure joy that these two jazz masters are having as they riff off old standards and newer tunes.
Comedy even figures in as McFerrin and Corea stretch the boundaries of what is permissible in a jazz context. They seem to be thinking, “is it really necessary to play Autumn Leaves the same old way one more time?” It’s clear that the answer is a resounding “no!”
Play’s freshness and the musicians’ desire to make music outside of traditional jazz boundaries makes it an appealing choice for people who are new to jazz or not even sure what jazz is all about. For me, the album is an essential reminder of the possibilities inherent in improvisation and the state of joy and fun that can arise when musicians allow themselves to fall into each new moment without any idea of what is going to happen next.
Get a taste of Play here.
Wondering what’s required to learn jazz? Check out this post.