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Friday, February 12, 2021

Chick Corea (1941 - 2021)

Chick Corea, Skopje Jazz Festival 2009 ©Ziga Koritnik

By Paul Acquaro

We were surprised to hear about pianist and composer Chick Corea's passing this week from a rare and only recently detected form of cancer. Over the past few months, throughout the various lockdowns, it seems as if Corea was producing online videos, conducting master classes, and keeping busy.

While Corea may be more often associated with his more straight ahead Akoustic Band, or fusion with Return to Forever and later the Elektrik Band, as well as duos with vibraphonist Gary Burton (ECM's 2009 box set Crystal Silence-the Ecm Recordings 1972-79 is worth tracking down), he also famously worked with Miles Davis during his earlier jazz-rock period (In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live-Evil, Live at the Fillmore East, and is featured in the film Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue of Davis' Performance at The Isle of Wight in 1970). 

This period was followed by a short-lived but influential collaboration with woodwindist Anthony Braxton, bassist David Holland, and drummer Barry Altschul in the group Circle, which recorded Live in Paris for ECM, as well as a recording minus Braxton in 1971, A.R.C (also on ECM). Two recordings on Blue Note also document this more avant-garde leaning time for Corea. Circling In (Blue Note, 1975) was a collection of Corea's work with some formative work by Circle, and Circulus from 1978 was a collection of live performances from 1970.

The depth and breadth of Corea's work is daunting to capture, but his musical spirit is not. From live performances, to his many recordings, and his later educational work, Corea leaves a giant imprint.  

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By Stef Gijssels

Chick Corea is one of those musicians who've done it all, and who were able to do it all, thanks to their virtuosity and creative insights. My first contacts with Corea where his jazz rock or fusion efforts, first with Miles Davis, and later with Return To Forever. As a young man, I was fascinated by the musical pyrotechnics of the latter, just like I was in awe for the instrumental prowess of bands such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra or Weather Report. 

My favourite album was Romantic Warrior (1976), a 'horror' of an album musically, the epitome of bad taste in music, but at the same time a musical circus full of incredible acrobatics, swallowing swords, eating fire and jumping from horses, with so many things happening at the same time, unexpectedly and so fast that you do not know where to direct your attention. I'm listening to it now, and it still has that madness of attraction: the breakneck speed unison lines, the unexpected twists and turns. I do not think one note on this album is improvised, as it is constructed and arranged in minute detail, with layers of additional sounds in post-production. It is arrogant, show-offish, programmatic and basically with little to say (I always wondered why an album that is so emotionally dead could have the word 'romantic' in its title). It is the actual complete opposite of jazz. But admittedly, the technical musicianship is extraordinary, a kind of instrumental extravaganza. 

On the other hand, there is Corea as a solo performer, playing pieces of Bill Evans, calmly, emotionally compelling - romantic even - and with real musicianship, improvising full concerts and managing to keep the listener's attention, or his brilliant and agitated album "ARC" (1971) with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul, which is more in post-bop or free bop mode, one of my favourites. My musical tastes changed, and so did his, and clearly in different directions. Despite this, he still had a strong impact on the musical appreciation in my life. I am listening to ARC now. Thank you Chick!


CIRCLE Live 1971:

4 comments:

Lee said...

I shared this quote from him yesterday, and I think it encapsulates why I enjoy his music so much, even some of the more ridiculous experiments. There is real joy in his playing, he always seems to be having fun with his groups. And like Braxton and Holland, Corea kept playing with new configurations and younger musicians.

"We have a mission to go out there and be an antidote to war, and all of the dark side of what happens on Planet Earth. We're the ones that go in and remind people about their creativity."

Don said...

I first heard Light As A Feather in 1974 and was totally knocked-out. Then more RTF in the 70's. What a party. Then discoverung his 60's material. I kinda lost touch with him but I still love and respect his amazing musicianship and creativity. Always moving on to a new sounding project. I'm so fortunate to have heard him live twice, 1977 with the Leprechaun band and an RTF reunion tour in '08. Rest In Your Groove, Chick. We loved you madly!

Captain Hate said...

Chick was instrumental in my getting from point A to B and then beyond. I saw Return to Forever opening for Weather Report when they had Mysterious Traveler come out, which I was excited about. But Weather Report left me unsatisfied that night, particularly wondering why Shorter was sticking around, which also puzzled Lester Bowie with his "Where or Wayne" composition. But part of the reason was just how good Return to Forever was playing selections from the No Mystery release. That got me on a Corea binge for quite a while before moving on to other stuff. I agree that there was a joy in his playing which translated very effectively.

Alvin Bishop said...

Chick Corea and Weather Report and Return to Fovever will all be remembered for centuries as simply exquisite.

Cheers!