The odyssey of Chick Corea

The odyssey of Chick Corea

I conic jazz pianist visits University of Miami-Middletown

By Khalid Moss

Photo: Legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea will perform solo at Miami Middletown on Sunday, April 21

When a young artist emerged on the New York jazz scene in the early ‘60s, you could listen to the vinyl records he recorded monthly, and in most cases even less. We could hear the cool sounds emanating from the hi-fi back in the day, but if your favorite artist walked up to you to ask for a smoke back then, you probably wouldn’t recognize the face. In those dark ages of pre-electronica, there was no Youtube, no camera phones, Spacebook Friends, no Twitter tweets and no road cams documenting your every move.

Such was the case of Armando Anthony Corea, better known as “Chick.” This young innovator hit the jazz scene like a Russian meteorite. He recorded with flautist Herbie Mann before releasing two daring, debut albums that included “Tones for Joan’s Bones.”

But it was the album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs that caught the attention of jazz nuts nationwide.

Corea, a Boston-based young musician, was a brilliant combination of time, touch, feeling, swing and technique all rolled up in one post-bop pianist with post-impressionistic ideas.

Corea and his parents are from Northern Spain. His father, a Boston bandleader during the ‘30s and ‘40s, introduced Corea to the piano at age four. Since then, the story has blossomed into a full-blown corsage of music that puts Corea on the leading edge of jazz pianists alongside the likes of Herbie Hancock – with whom he has dueled several times – McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett.

Corea has traveled to the Midwest on a number of occasions, usually bringing his long time drummer, Lenny White, and his brother from another mother, bassist Stanley Clarke. For this performance, however, Corea will go it alone in a solo piano concert.

The event is sponsored by the Miami Regional Arts Series under the steady leadership of Dr. Howard Epstein. “The Miami Regional Artist series consists of two separate series on the Hamilton and Middletown campuses of Miami University. I am director of both,” Epstein said.

Somewhat similar to Cityfolk, Dayton’s Cultural Arts Presenter for more than 25 years, Epstein has always been able to present the best talent to the Miami regional arts community and surrounding areas with affordable ticket prices.

“Some of the acts that have appeared in Hamilton include Alison Krauss and Union Station, Diana Krall, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Ben Harper, Andy Bey, Keb Mo, Junior Wells, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, the Seldom Scene and many more. In the past three years, Middletown has also presented Arlo Guthrie, Randy Newman, Esperanza Spaulding, Trombone Shorty, the Punch Brothers and Dailey and Vincent,” he said.

The thing about seeing and hearing Chick Corea’s band is that you never knew what was up his sleeve. Whether Corea plays acoustic piano, drums, electric keyboards or just hits a couple tin cans with a stick, you are in for a truly stimulating evening of galvanizing music. I’m hesitant to say “jazz” because I want everyone to enter the auditorium with an open mind and strap you seat belts on tight.

“I started this whole music playing with Herbie Mann,” Corea said. “I played with Herbie Mann for two years, then he got some money to produce and asked me to record some Latin stuff. I kind of told him I have some heavier, more avant-garde stuff that I’d like to do, so he gave me the green light.”

After recording his own debut album, Corea was immediately pushed into the harsh glare of stardom, latching on to Stan Getz – with whom he recorded the incredible Sweet Rain with drummer Roy Haynes.

“Music is about associations and associations run deep,” he said. “For Return to Forever, there was a history of playing together that we couldn’t shake so we decided form a band.”

Corea’s second album, Is, caught the eye and ear of Miles Davis and he wound up sharing piano duties with Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock.

From those humble beginnings, Corea has garnered numerous awards, including two Grammy Awards at the recent 2013 show for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo and Best Instrumental Composition. Recent years have also seen Corea’s rising interest in contemporary classical music. He composed his first piano concerto and an adaptation of his composition “Spain” with the London Symphony Orchestra.

I like to describe Corea as a comet: brilliant, streaking through the heavens, dodging clouds and creating calamity on Earth. But just like that legendary heavenly body, Haley’s Comet, it will return some day. You don’t want to miss Chick Corea during this tour.

Chick Corea will perform a solo piano concert on Sunday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at Miami Middletown Campus’ Dave Finkelman Auditorium, 4200 N. University Blvd. Tickets are $35. For more information, call 513.529.3200 or visit the Miami Box Office website at tickets.miamioh.edu.

Reach DCP freelance writer Khalid Moss at KhalidMoss@daytoncitypaper.com

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