Arab Times

On new al­bum, Corea plays with pi­ano, fans

- By Mark Kennedy


you’re very lucky, one day Chick Corea will make your por­trait. And be­cause he’s a for­mi­da­ble mu­si­cian, it will be a por­trait en­tirely in mu­si­cal notes.

Corea likes invit­ing vol­un­teers onto the stage dur­ing solo con­certs, sit­ting them down near his pi­ano and cre­at­ing spon­ta­neous, en­tirely sub­jec­tive tone po­ems about the per­son.

“It starts as a game – to try to cap­ture some­thing I see in mu­sic,” he says. “While I play, I look at them a cou­ple of times like a painter would. I try to see if, while I’m play­ing, are they agree­ing with what I’m play­ing? Do they think that this is re­ally a por­trait of them? And usu­ally they do.” Two such vivid por­traits are in­cluded on his new dou­ble al­bum “Plays”, which cap­tures Corea at var­i­ous con­certs armed sim­ply with his pi­ano. He’s been play­ing solo pi­ano shows since 1971 and likes the pu­rity of it.

“Like a run­ner loves to run be­cause it just feels good, I like to play the pi­ano just be­cause it feels good,” he says. “I can just switch gears and go to an­other di­rec­tion or go to an­other song or what­ever I want to do. So it’s a con­stant ex­per­i­ment.”

Corea has earned his right to do what­ever he wants, with a stag­ger­ing 23 Grammy Awards. In 1968, he re­placed Her­bie Han­cock in Miles Davis’ group, play­ing on the land­mark al­bums “In a Silent Way” and “... Brew”.


He formed his own avant-garde group, Cir­cle, and then founded Re­turn to For­ever. He’s worked on many other projects, in­clud­ing duos with Han­cock and vi­bra­phon­ist Gary Bur­ton. He’s recorded and performed clas­si­cal mu­sic, stan­dards, solo orig­i­nals, Latin jazz and trib­utes to great jazz pi­anists.

The new dou­ble al­bum is a peek into Corea’s mu­si­cal heart, con­tain­ing songs he wrote about chil­dren decades ago as well as tunes by Mozart, Th­elo­nious Monk and Ste­vie Won­der, among oth­ers. Their mu­sic is alive to him now, re­gard­less the era they performed. “My love for Mozart is now. My love for Ste­vie Won­der and Miles Davis is now,” he says by phone from his home near Tampa, Florida. “So when I take that on­stage and I mix it to­gether, it’s to­tally nat­u­ral to me. It’s how I think.”

Bernie Kirsh, who recorded and co-pro­duced the al­bum, has been work­ing with Corea since 1975 and says his friend com­bines re­mark­able tech­nique, gen­eros­ity of spirit and a sense of free­dom.

Kirsh has worked with lots of mu­si­cians and knows they can be brusque. On the very first song he and Corea worked on, some­thing went awry on the con­sole. Kirsh braced for “a not ex­actly very friendly re­sponse”. But Corea calmly said: “OK, let’s do it again”. Kirsh then knew: “This is go­ing to be a blast. And it’s been a won­der­ful, won­der­ful rise all these years.”

In ad­di­tion to the in­ter­pre­ta­tions of great com­posers and the mu­si­cal por­traits on the new al­bum, Corea also recorded two ex­am­ples of a fea­ture he’s also been play­ing with on­stage: The guest im­pro­viser.

He’ll in­vite some­one from the au­di­ence – it can be a 4-year-old who sim­ply wants to poke at the pi­ano or a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian who wants to go note-to-note with Corea – and they’ll jam.

“It’s pretty dan­ger­ous, man. And that’s the fun of it. The fun of it is that it’s dan­ger­ous,” he says. “All kind of stuff hap­pens when peo­ple come up”. (AP)

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