Light as a Feather

Corea, Chick and Return to Forever

album cover

Featherweight Fusion

Light as a Feather joined jazz pianist Chick Corea and the then husband-and-wife team of vocalist Flora Purim and percussionist Airto in a clash of potentially opposing ideologies. Corea, a veteran of Miles Davis's electric bands, was known for his squabbling, extroverted virtuosity, particularly on the electric piano. The Brazilians, meanwhile, approached everything with characteristic serenity and deep understatement.

What could have been a catastrophic mess became one of the shining moments of jazz fusion, an aptly titled work of gentle breezes and free spirits soaring over hidden (or at least partially obscured) compositional complexities. Everyone involved is in pursuit of lightness: Corea's "You're Everything" moves at an almost jittery samba clip yet never feels hurried. The title track, written by Purim and bassist Stanley Clarke, requires this alert band to transition between several tempos, and they do so casually, without thinking, as though sauntering between rooms at a party.

The peak expression from the first of three completely different Return to Forever bands, Light as a Feather had immediate impact on jazz. It triggered interest among musicians in Brazilian forms beyond bossa nova and foreshadowed the more cerebral European jazz of the later 1970s. Its Corea originals "Spain" and "500 Miles High" became standards, the rare jazz pieces with ethereal lyrics well matched to the sounds. Most important, its uncluttered atmospheres took listeners out of a conventional jazz headspace and lifted them to that lofty stratosphere above the tree line, where it's possible to get some perspective on things.

Genre: Jazz
Released: 1973, Verve
Key Tracks: "You're Everything," "Spain," "500 Miles High."
Catalog Choice: Now He Sings, Now He Sobs; Children's Songs
Next Stop: Weather Report: Black Market
After That: Opa: Goldenwings
Book Page: 189

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