Chick Corea: Tones For Joan’s Bones (1968)

A smart set of post-bop originals recorded on the eve of Chick’s induction into Miles’ merry-go-round.

Kronomyth 1.0: DUKE SKELETON. I first heard this music on Inner Space, a compilation that was easier to find than the original elpee, and it blew my mind. I was already a fan of Chick’s fusion phase at the time, but hadn’t been exposed to the post bop and avant-garde recordings of his early years. Hearing “Litha” and “Straight Up And Down” for the first time added a new dimension to my appreciation of Chick Corea. The lineup aligns with the contemporary quintets of Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter: trumpet (Woody Shaw, Jr.), tenor sax (Joe Farrell), bass (Steve Swallow), drums (Joe Chambers) and piano (Corea). The opening “Litha” comes out swinging with Shaw and Farrell sharing the melody, then shifts gears for short runs before returning to the loping opening melody, while Chambers propels the piece with perfectly timed crashes and tumbles and Corea spars with the melody from a distance. “This Is New” features terse phrasing from Corea (shades of Miles) for most of the way, with a nice breakout solo from Farrell. Corea’s piano moves to the fore for the title track, a sentimental ballad with a lovely melody, featuring only a trio of piano, drums and bass. The closing “Straight Up And Down” comes spilling out in a rhythm that recalls Herbie Hancock at first, but quickly turns into a spirited chase with everyone joining in; hearing Swallow keep pace with Corea on this song is a hoot. As I said, having been exposed only to his later recordings, hearing Corea adopt a “less is more” aesthetic was a shock to me (albeit a pleasant one). Compositionally, Tones For Joan’s Bones is remarkably strong for a debut record, although Corea was in his mid 20s and already an established session player. Honestly, the elpee is worth hearing for the playing of Joe Chambers alone, but hearing Corea in a “normal” jazz setting is also worthwhile as it reveals just how unusual he was.

Original LP Version
A1. Litha (Chick Corea) (13:21)
A2. This Is New (Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin) (7:30)
B1. Tones For Joan’s Bones (Chick Corea) (6:07)
B2. Straight Up And Down (Chick Corea) (12:22)

The Players
Chick Corea (piano), Joe Chambers (drums), Joe Farrell (tenor sax, flute), Woody Shaw, Jr. (trumpet), Steve Swallow (bass). Produced by Herbie Mann; engineered by Phil Iehle.

The Pictures
Cover illustration by Dick Luppi. Cover design by Haig Adishian.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1968 in the US (Vortex, SD 2004) and Canada (Atco/Quality, SD 2004). Re-released on elpee in 1976 in Germany (Atlantic, ATL 50302) as part of the That’s Jazz series (#25) with a different cover. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 (Atlantic, 50302). Re-released on compact disc in 1998 in the US (Atlantic/Rhino, 75352-2) to commemorate Atlantic’s 50th anniversary. Repackaged w. Miroslav Vitous’ Mountains In The Clouds on CD on June 22, 1999 (Jazz Classic, 6238). Re-released on remastered compact disc on October 20, 2004 in Japan (Atlantic, MTCJ-6003). Re-released on compact disc on April 25, 2012 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-27015). Re-released on SHM-CD on June 21, 2017 in Japan (Warner, WPCR-29263).

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