Q: What happens when you turn one of the great composer/pianists of our time loose.
A: Nearly three hours of first-rate music.

National Endowment for the Arts jazz master and winner of 20 Grammy awards, Chick Corea releases Trilogy (Stretch Records/Concord Jazz, 2014), a special three-disc selection culled from various performances around the world. The trio includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. Guests Jorge Pardo and guitarist Nino Josele appear on two songs, and Corea’s wife, Gayle Moran Corea, provides the voice on “Someday My Prince Will Come.”

Disc 1 has seven tracks, including standards “The Song Is You” and “My Foolish Heart.” This part of the set ends with one of Corea’s most popular compositions, “Spain.” It begins with Josele playing a classical-style solo. The Corea’s piano comes in, offering hints of what’s to come. The guitar continues to lead as the prelude slowly builds up, eventually joined by the flute. At last, the ensemble kicks it in gear. The trio carries it early on. Guitar and flute rejoin when the familiar melody appears. Corea is clearly the star here, but Josele does plenty with the time he’s given. Things heat up when Pardo takes point. The flute easily transitions from simply intense to shrill. The energy remains high even when the volume is low for McBride’s turn out front. The song reverts to the main them for a triumphant ending.

Among the disc 2 highlights are “Alice in Wonderland,” “It Could Happen to You” and “How Deep Is the Ocean?” The trio also performs another of Corea’s classics, “Armando’s Rhumba.” After a dose of the up-tempo, familiar melody, the piano downshifts for a mix of improve and familiar. This would be the theme for the entire presentation. Corea stretches out plenty but maintains enough of the original song as to leave no doubt about what you’re hearing, whether you listen to the entire song or catch only an excerpt. There is one place near the middle of the track where the trio goes into an all-out jam. McBride and Blade are firmly engaged.

Trilogy is a masterful collection of Corea compositions, jazz standards and new material. The material is culled from performances in Washington, D.C., Oakland, California, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Turkey and Japan. Pardo and Josele join them in Madrid, and
Gayle Moran Corea appears in Sapporo.

Born in 1941, Corea continuously reinvents himself. In his early career, he was part of the Return to Forever trio with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. He has led large bands and small groups. In the 1980s and ’90s, he headed two incarnations of Chick Corea Elektric Band. In recent years, Return to Forever has reactivated, and Corea fronts a new band, The Vigil. Corea is a DownBeat Hall of Fame inductee, a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master and is listed as the fourth-most nominated Grammy artist with 61 nominations and 20 wins, including three Latin Grammy awards.