STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
A prolific member of the jazz community for decades, American jazz icon Chick Corea is revered for his groundbreaking piano and keyboard instrumentation and original composition. Described as one of the major jazz piano voices to emerge in the post-John Coltrane era, Corea consistently reinvents himself whether performing straight ahead jazz, fusion, bebop or classical works.
A Downbeat Magazine Hall of Famer, Corea has received the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor that our nation bestows on a jazz artist. The recipient of 22 American Grammy Awards and 3 Latin Grammy Awards, the most of any artist in the “Best Instrumental Album” category, Corea’s unparalleled talent and creative output has made him a legend in his own time.
In support of his latest duet release with Bela Fleck, entitled “Two,” Corea will make his Berks Jazz Festival debut this coming weekend.
“Bela and I played so many fun concerts together over the past year and a half that it seemed a great idea to just let our audience in on those moments through a live recording,” says Corea, in a recent email interview. “In a broad sense, all of my touring projects are collaborations in my mind. With my new band Vigil, for instance, I wrote the music, found the musicians, recorded and then toured for several years with these relatively young musicians. It’s been a joy and a true collaboration. I learned a tremendous amount. Collaboration is the way I like to make music -whether it’s with someone established and well-known like Bela or my young band – by improvising and constantly recreating our set, some new pieces, even some classical music. I’m looking forward to it.”
Corea and Fleck released a duet album, “The Enchantment,” in 2007. Fleck was nominated in the Best Instrumental Composition category at the 49th Grammy Awards for the track “Spectacle.”
“There are just too many great moments to review in a short moment like this,” adds Corea. “I treasure all my musical relationships. They are the richness of my life and a good part of my pay for living.”
An integral member of Miles Davis’ band in the late 60’s, Corea played a significant creative role in the birth of the electric jazz-fusion movement. He appeared on Davis’ landmark studio and live albums “Filles de Kilimanjaro” (1968), “In a Silent Way” (1969), “Bitches Brew” (1971), “Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East” (1970) and “Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West” (1973).
Embarking on a solo career on the side in 1966, Corea released his classic solo album “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” (1968). He formally left Davis’ band to form the avant-garde acoustic jazz group “Circle” in 1970.
Revered for his innovative style on both the piano and electric keyboard, Corea founded the legendary “Return To Forever.” That super-group featured members Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell, Airto, Flora Purim, Bill Connors, Lenny White and, later, Al DiMeola. Merging jazz-fusion and Latin jazz elements, Corea’s “Spain,” which appeared on the 1972 “Return to Forever” album “Light as a Feather,” became his most popular piece.
Reuniting in 2008, “Return to Forever,” then featuring Corea (keyboards), Stanley Clarke (bass), Lenny White (drums) and Al DiMeola (guitar), toured the world. A number of the group’s studio recordings were re-released on the compilation “Return to Forever: The Anthology” in 2008.
Corea, 74, thrives in the studio and on the concert stage as a solo artist and collaborator working with such luminaries as Gary Burton, Stan Getz, Larry Coryell, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Mann, Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock.
“I like to communicate with my musicians and the audience – interchange emotions with them,” says Corea. “I experience the joy of creating this way and sometimes feel lucky and smart that I’ve chosen music as my life’s work. I love to create and I do a lot of it.”
Celebrating a retrospective of his music in 2011, Corea performed with “The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra” in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
“It sounds like I’m writing my epitaph,” says Corea. “I don’t get much pleasure out of evaluating my life. I like to see the smiling and pleased faces of my audiences each night. That’s my measure of success. I feel a pride in my own competence to produce these positive effects. I don’t think of it. In fact, I don’t even “consider myself” in that way. I like to extrovert and create music for others to enjoy – always have.”
“The future is what each one of us will create together,” adds Corea. “I like to think positively that there will be more and more participation in jazz and all the arts and that creative and improvised music will continue to be created and inspire people. That’s what I work towards. I always hope to bring some pleasure to my audiences.”