Touchstone (1982)

An album that captures all of Salvador Dali’s humidity and little of its fantastic surrealism. The comparison is invited through a short story from Tony Cohen that appears on the inner sleeve. Whether this is program music based on the story (or vice versa) is anybody’s guess. You could probably lump Touchstone in with Corea’s “spanish” works, as many of these songs would have felt at home on My Spanish Heart. The presence of guitarist Paco De Lucia on “Touchstone” and “The Yellow Nimbus” is dominant, lending a romantic edge to this remote and troubled music. Lee Konitz takes the lead on the sad, apprehensive “Duende” (similar to Corea’s Lyric Suite for Sextet), Steve Kujala for the cagey “Dance of Chance.” Like a number of Chick’s group efforts, he either pairs his instrument with other players for joint solos or slips from the spotlight altogether. The results are initially interesting but ultimately underwhelming, save for the RTF reunion on “Compadres” where Al Di Meola spices things up for the record’s most refreshing track. But refreshment is hard to find in the world of Touchstone; more often than not I find this album draining and even listless at times. This is music you need to be in the mood for, say on a cold winter’s night when hot and humid are desirable. Otherwise this is simply another of Chick Corea’s also-rans, like Secret Agent or Again And Again. There was a time when the opening “Touchstone” held my attention, its funereal pacing nearly mesmerizing, but that was the halo effect of newness at work. Looking for more and finding little, I’ve since grown disenchanted with Touchstone. Perhaps I’ve dug too deeply or not deep enough in search of a fruitful fusion.

Original LP Version
A1. Touchstone: Procession / Ceremony / Departure (10:52)
A2. The Yellow Nimbus (8:44)
A3. Duende (3:07)
B1. Compadres (9:32)
B2. Estancia (6:10)
B3. Dance of Chance (7:07)

All music composed and arranged by Chick Corea.

The Players
Chick Corea (piano, Yamaha GS-1,, Fairlight CMI, OB-Xa, Paiste gong & cymbal, minimoog, Fender Rhodes, Moog 55), Alex Acuna (drums, cajon, snare drum, Paiste cymbal), Don Alias (Lya drum, congas, bongos) with Carlos Benavent (bass), Stanley Clarke (bass on B1), Paco De Lucia (guitar, handclaps), Laudir De Oliviera (ganza, caxixi, wood blocks), Al Di Meola (guitar on B1), Greg Gottlieb (cello), Lee Konitz (alto saxophone on A3), Steve Kujala (tenor saxophone, flute on B3), Bob Magnusson (bass on A3), Gayle Moran (voices on A1), Carol Shive (violin on A3), Al Vizzutti (trumpet on B3), Lenny White (drums on B1). Produced by Chick Corea; engineered by Bernie Kirsh.

The Pictures
Cover photo by Peter Green. Art direction by Ken Whitman. Liner photos by Catherine Goldwyn. Lettering by Mike Manoogian. “Touchstone” story by Tony Cohen.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1982 in the US (Warner Bros., 26399), Germany (Warner Bros., WBK 57015) and Japan (Warner/Pioneer, P-11248) with picture sleeve; reached #9 on the US Jazz charts. Re-released on CD in 1992 in the US (GRP. 1004) and on February 18, 1997 in the US (Stretch, SCD-9003).

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