Review by Wade Vonasek
A pair of virtuoso musicians, jazz pianist Chick Corea and banjoist Bela Fleck, who have racked up twenty Grammy awards between the two of them, have teamed up to offer The Enchantment, an album that showcases both players musical prowess, as well as some fine interplay between the artists.
When thinking of banjo music, the movie Deliverance comes to mind, or a mental photo of an old man sitting on a ratty front porch in bib overalls, bare feet and a straw hat, pickin’ away. These ideas go out the window after hearing Fleck, who sometimes sounds almost more like a jazz guitarist than a banjo player. And the combination of piano and banjo, though different, ends up quite appealing for the most part.
The lead-off track “Senorita” has an air of suspense, like it should be in a movie, with piano climbing up and down in single notes and banjo galloping lightly and fluidly along. The middle section of “Spectacle” sounds almost menacing, at least as menacing as a piano and banjo can get. The push/pull feel of “A Strange Romance” is pleasing and befits the title, and on the bluegrass-y “Mountain” Fleck’s banjo sounds more like one would expect a banjo to sound. “Joban Dna Nopia” is also a standout, with a cool piano groove from Corea that vaguely conjures the feel of the Peanuts theme, and Fleck’s banjo sounding especially jazzy.
Other tracks, such as “Menagerie” and “Children’s Song #6” are superb in the chops department, but not as memorable tunes as some of the others. And though the two are more than competent musicians, some of these tracks could have benefited from added instruments or percussion, though the minimal approach, for the majority, does work well.
Overall, The Enchantment is a challenging, yet enlightening album, though probably not for the casual listener. Fans of Corea and Fleck, however, should not be disappointed.