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Chick Corea: Three Quartets (1992) CD Review

by March 20, 2015
Three Quartets

Three Quartets

Label: Stretch Records (STD-1103) | Buy Now

Track List

1.    Quartet #1
2.    Quartet #3
3.    Quartet #2, Part 1
4.    Quartet #2, Part 2
5.    Folk Song
6.    Hairy Canary
7.    Slippery When Wet
8.    Confirmation


Chick Corea’s Three Quartets is an album I owned on the original LP release (1981). It was eventually re-released on CD, with the addition of four tracks recorded during the same session, although they are quite different stylistically. Even though the CD was released by Stretch Records in 1992, it was drawn from the original GRP records digital master utilized for the LP. The musicians assembled for this date were frequent sidemen for keyboardist Chick Corea. Over time, all have become historically significant, with Steve Gadd on drums, Eddie Gomez on bass, and Michael Brecker on sax. At the time of the original recording, everyone had been playing and recording as the band Steps/Steps Ahead for several years; in fact, if you had merely swapped keyboardists Chick Corea and Don Grolnick, you would have essentially been listening to Steps (minus Mike Mainieri). This goes a long way towards explaining the incredible chemistry these musicians share.

Audio Quality

The first thing that might catch your attention upon examining the tracking listing is that the Quartet Numbers are presented out of sequence. The reason has to do with the original LP release's run-time limitation. There was no way to include both parts of Quartet #2 in order on the LP following Quartet #1, so it was given its own “side.” That left Quartet #1 and #3 to fill the other “side”. It's nearly impossible to rank favorite tracks on this release, although I'll say the most historically significant are Quartet #1 and Quartet #2, Part 2 if for no other reason than their collective solos. Quartet #2, Part 2 contains a very famous Steve Gadd drum solo, which I consider right up there with the title track from Steely Dan's Aja. While the Charlie Parker cover of Confirmation might be a good solo study for sax, I really don't care much for it as a stand-alone tune. Overall, the audio quality is a strong example of the early digital mastering work from GRP records, and benefits greatly from the outstanding recording engineering by the great Bernie Kirsh.


While this review is primarily for the 1992 (expanded) CD release, I can personally vouch for the high quality of the original 1981 LP release. However, the historical significance of the original release doesn't stop there: in 2005, Chick Corea released both a CD and DVD set entitled Rendezvous in New York, which included music from nine different bands recorded over three weeks at the famous Blue Note club in New York City. Among the many bands assembled for one of the sessions was—you guessed it—the “Three Quartets” band. Even more amazing than the fact that they were still playing (and quite well, I might add), was that they played the original album almost note-for-note, in the original sequence! For those of you clamoring to get your hands on a copy, be aware that the series is comprised of several DVDs, requiring close examination of both the cover and personnel to ensure you get the right one. Note: the (same titled) CD release is a compendium from those sessions that only contains one track from the Three Quartets set (Quartet #2, Part 2—the one with the drum solo). In other words, if you're only after the live performance of this particular band/session, stick with the DVD. Chick Corea has a rich composition history, but I believe no one set is more profound than Three Quartets. Outstanding writing combined with outstanding performances makes this a modern jazz classic.


  • Audio Quality: 5/5
  • Features (liner notes): 4/5
  • Overall: 5/5

Reference Equipment

  • Yamaha DSP-A1 Natural Sound A/V Amplifier (Stereo Mode)
  • Pioneer Elite CLD-99 Reference LD Player
  • Polk Monitor 10B Speakers (x2)



About the author:
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Stanton was born and raised in Kansas City, where he was exposed to the rich culture of jazz at a very young age. He's a drummer and an electrical engineer and loves to review jazz music for us.

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