Duel of the Jester & the Tyrant


It was tempting to put photos of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the top of this post but I couldn’t decide which of them was the jester and which the tyrant. So, after the disaster of last Thursday’s General Election in the UK, Crotchety Man is withdrawing from politics until such time as the UK electorate (and, hopefully, the wider world) starts to show some small signs of sanity and compassion. And what better antidote to the slough of despond than the jaunty dance of Return to Forever‘s jazz/rock fusion from the mid-seventies.

Chick Corea’s musical style was incubated in the cauldrons of Miles Davis and Stan Getz, born with distinctive Latin American features and matured while immersed in the creative explosion of progressive rock. Along with Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra they formed the heart of the jazz/rock fusion movement in the 1970s. Most regular readers of this blog will already be familiar with the band but for anyone else there’s a concise biography of Return to Forever in this allmusic entry.

The Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant is taken from Return to Forever‘s sixth and most popular album, Romantic Warrior, released in 1976. It’s a prime example of the fusion style – entirely instrumental, with intricate melodies, fast runs and complex rhythms – but nothing like the disputes of the 18th and 19th centuries that were settled with a rapier or a pistol. Chick Corea’s keyboards and Al DiMeola’s guitars never engage in conflict; each supports and complements the other. Even Stanley Clarke’s electric bass seems to join in the melée by stepping beyond harmony to reach a complete unison. And Lenny White’s drums keep the non-combatants in solid lock-step throughout. I challenge you to find a finer example of the genre.

chick corea

When the tyrant is in control I find the escapist art of the jester provides the only effective relief. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all.

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