Circle: Corea, Braxton, Holland & Altschul

Words By Zach Zeidner

Chick Corea experiences most often involve either some form of devastating electric rock fusion or innovative form of post-bop. However, as a musician, Chick Corea has explored almost every realm of music a virtuoso such as himself could think to explore. From Spanish classical, to European classical, to children’s music, Corea has proved himself a worthy adversary in the musical world. However, it is his overlooked works that often prove to be the most awe inspiring. The project, Circle, is one of those overlooked works.

If one is familiar with the incredible works of composer, woodwind player, and musical philosopher Anthony Braxton, then one has undoubtedly heard of this project. However, for those who have not, there is no better way to start exploring this man’s work than to hear him with these three other extraordinary musicians. I will bestow a warning that this is not your everyday Chick Corea work; this project is full of tensile solos, exceedingly centrifugal collectivity and cyclical drives that provide a wonder world of Free Jazz delight that will penetrate the ears and tickle the brain. Starting in 1970, Circle only lasted about 2 years. However, the music produced within that time astounded the Free Jazz world. This project marks a seminal time in Corea’s career, at a moment when he was making the transformation to the electric rock fusion he has come to be some easily associated with. During this time, Corea was involved and deeply interested in the avant-garde movement as most were due to Coltrane’s final frontier of the Free Jazz movement. Only two studio albums were released from this project, Circling In and Circulus, both released by Blue Note records. Although some live performances exist, this seems to be the bulk of the work released by the project.

The albums prove to be a whirlwind of tension as the music begins with lulling and classically driven piano solos that build with tension as the bass and drums seep into the music. Suddenly you are thrust by the commanding tone and incredible tenacity of Braxton’s playing. It overwhelms at times, allowing an intense flow of notes to enrapture the listener. One can sit back and listen as Braxton perfectly complements the complex piano parts laid down by Corea. Enjoy, and allow Corea and Braxton to take you places musically you never thought existed.


  1. Sponge, excellent article. This stuff is pretty far out, I'm digging the Dave Holland playing especially. He's the kind of guy, like Chick, who's always at the cusp of what's happening in the jazz world from the late 60's all the way up to today. I plan to continue hitting up this Thursday jazz blog.


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