Corea helped enrich the lexicon of jazz, merging its harmonic language with the heaviness (and amplification) of rock and funk.
Chick Corea, the pioneering keyboardist and bandleader who died final Tuesday at 79, shall be endlessly considered an important architect of jazz-rock fusion.
It’s a becoming one-line tribute. Whether or not on his personal, main the collective Return to Eternally or accompanying giants like Miles Davis (on landmark albums together with “In a Silent Manner” and “Bitches Brew”), Corea helped enrich the lexicon of jazz, merging its harmonic language with the heaviness (and amplification) of rock and funk. However no description, even one this broad, can embody a imaginative and prescient so limitless.
“In spite of everything, formal kinds are solely an afterthought — an outgrowth of the inventive impulse,” Corea informed The New York Occasions in 1983. “No person sits down and decides to particularly write in a predetermined type. A mode isn’t one thing you study a lot as one thing that you just synthesise. Musicians don’t care if a given composition is jazz, pop or classical music. All they care about is whether or not it’s good music — whether or not it’s difficult and thrilling.”
For greater than 5 many years, Corea modified his sound to comply with that easy maxim — chasing whims from bebop to free jazz to fusion to modern classical. He recorded near 90 albums as a bandleader or co-leader. And he at all times prioritised melody and musicality over empty-calorie showmanship (although few might rival his uncooked ability on the Fender Rhodes).
Listed below are 12 of his elite studio and dwell performances.
‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’ (1970)
Corea and Joe Zawinul kind a wall of Rhodes on this slinky, funky minimize from Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” punctuated by John McLaughlin’s ice-pick guitars and Davis’ sighing trumpet. The rhythm part is so dense, it’s onerous to savour all of it: two electrical basses (Dave Holland and Harvey Brooks), two drum units (Don Alias and Jack DeJohnette) and the congas of Juma Santos. Good factor it lasts 14 minutes. The keyboardists shift from query marks to exclamation factors — one second prodding in opposition to the groove, the following soloing in colourful bursts of noise. “Belief your self” was Davis’ philosophy, Corea mentioned in 2020. “When he says, ‘Play what you don’t hear,’ he means, belief your creativeness. Belief your self to say, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do subsequent, however I’m simply going to do it as a result of it’s enjoyable. As a result of I like it.’”
Corea splatters electrical piano all throughout this nine-minute monster from guitarist Larry Coryell’s “Areas,” a pillar of early fusion. The association appears to teeter between construction and improvisation, straight groove and cosmic freedom. The lineup is the definition of a supergroup: Corea and Coryell, plus McLaughlin on guitar, Miroslav Vitouš (later of Climate Report) on double bass and Billy Cobham on drums.
The uncommon fusion tune with a shelf life as a jazz normal, “Spain” stays Corea’s signature composition — coated by artists as completely different as Stevie Marvel and Béla Fleck. The unique, from Return to Eternally’s “Mild as a Feather,” is untouchable: Over almost 10 minutes, the keyboardist’s arms joyfully pirouette throughout the Rhodes, his mellifluous melodies matched by Flora Purim’s tranquil coo and Joe Farrell’s fluttering flute. The refrain, with its clipped keyboard phrases and enthusiastic hand claps, ranks alongside Climate Report’s principal “Birdland” theme as one of many catchiest moments in fusion historical past.
‘Area Circus, Half I’ / ‘Area Circus, Half II’ (1973)
In its infancy, Return to Eternally already rivaled the depth of most ’70s rock bands. But it surely sounded positively large on its third album, including two new recruits (powerhouse drummer Lenny White and guitarist Invoice Connors) and letting Stanley Clarke swap to electrical bass. The group confirmed its full dynamic vary on this two-parter from Return to Eternally’s “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy,” opening with Corea’s dreamy Rhodes theme earlier than erupting into tightly clenched funk. Connors’ bruising guitar and Clarke’s distorted bass drift into psych-rock territory — however even when the keyboardist lays again a bit, his regular chords stay the heartbeat of the ensemble.
‘Track to John (Half I)’ / ‘Track to John (Half II)’ (1975)
Corea’s acoustic piano slips into luxurious New Age territory on the primary half of those tracks from Clarke’s “Journey to Love,” buying and selling fanfare with Clarke’s bowed bass and McLaughlin’s acoustic guitar. The group nails down an intense Latin groove on the second half, with McLaughlin and Corea sparking fireworks. Within the liner notes, Clarke devoted the two-part piece to John Coltrane — and it lives as much as the billing.
The definitive Return to Eternally lineup — Corea, Clarke, White and guitarist Al Di Meola — splintered after the 1976 album Romantic Warrior. However as this funky odyssey proves, they went out at a close to peak. White is credited as composer right here, and his fidgety drum groove actually retains the engine operating. However “Sorceress” additionally finds Corea at maybe his most versatile, keyboardwise — weaving in atmospheric pads, squiggly synth leads and Latin themes on acoustic piano.
‘Spanish Fantasy’ (1976)
Corea was at all times influenced by Latin music, explaining “that flavour, I discover, is usually in the whole lot I do,” to Billboard in 2019. “It’s part of me. I don’t know differentiate it.” However he by no means plunged in additional deeply than on his tenth solo LP, My Spanish Coronary heart. The document peaks with this whiplash four-part suite, which sprawls from elegant string and brass sections to acoustic piano interludes to the tastiest jazz-rock rave-ups this facet of Steely Dan’s “Aja.”
‘Quick Tales of the Black Forest’ (1976)
Composed by Corea for his Eternally bandmate Di Meola’s debut solo album, Land of the Midnight Solar, this miniepic makes good use of its virtuoso flash — each gamers sound like they may drift away from their devices into the sky. However there are many sleek melodies packed into these 5 1/2 minutes. Halfway by way of, Corea slips into light chordal comping whereas Di Meola ascends and descends the scales. Corea even will get to showcase his marimba expertise, including further drama to a climactic flourish.
Corea and Herbie Hancock, two of fusion’s elite keyboardists, launched into an acoustic duo tour in 1978, and the pair, each veterans of the Miles Davis bands, interlock to a startling diploma on the 2 dwell LPs that emerged from these dates. One spotlight is a 19-minute model of “Homecoming” from “CoreaHancock,” expertly merging their devices into one organism. They transfer from magnificence to ugliness on a dime — halfway by way of, the piece morphs into a bit of guttural grunting, percussive pounding and ready piano insanity.
Like most fusion giants who survived into the mid-80s, Corea embraced the colours and contours of the time, forming his Elektric Band with drummer Dave Weckl, bassist John Patitucci and alternating guitarists Scott Henderson and Carlos Rios. The rhythm part runs free on this neon-coated quantity from The Chick Corea Elektric Band, outlined by its twisting, Zappa-like rhythms and Corea’s comically vivid synthesisers.
‘Spain (Reside)’ (1992)
Corea stretched out “Spain” like taffy over the many years, retaining his curiosity by transforming it for numerous settings and band configurations. (“By 1976 or so, I began to tire of the tune,” he informed The Atlantic in 2011. “I began enjoying actually perverted variations of it — I’d consult with it only for a second, then I’d go off on an improvisation.”) Considered one of his most gorgeous later-day renditions is that this dwell acoustic duet from Play with vocalist Bobby McFerrin, who breathes new life into the piece along with his divine falsetto, rumbling bass strains and physique percussion. For all of the chic approach, the largest revelation is listening to these two giants lock into excellent symmetry on the principle theme.
‘Crystal Silence’ (2008)
Corea reteamed with vibraphonist Gary Burton for the Grammy-winning, double-disc dwell LP The New Crystal Silence, constructed largely on reworked items from Corea’s again catalog. The duo had collaborated on and off for many years, and the music right here feels appropriately pure and lived-in — even full-blown Zen, like on the expanded tackle “Crystal Silence”. Captured in crisp, studio-level constancy, Corea and Burton commerce phrases and counterpoint patterns, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra rounding out that breezy dialog.
Ryan Reed c.2021 The New York Occasions Firm
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