Chick Corea first laid eyes on New York’s Greenwich Village in 1959, fresh from high school, with a head full of music that only he could have imagined. With this new release The Musician, recorded in the epicenter of Chick’s original NYC haunts and more than 50 years later, Corea finally brings all that music together at once.
The new live 3-CD and Blu-ray set captures Corea’s 70th birthday celebration at the famed Blue Note Jazz Club in 2011, where he assembled a staggering lineup of musical friends and fellow-travelers – among them Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, John McLaughlin and Stanley Clarke – for a month-long residency featuring 10 different bands, including triumphal sets by his own Chick Corea Elektric Band and Return to Forever. All of it is captured brilliantly in the first feature-length documentary on Corea’s life, music and genius musical partners. The film takes you inside the heads and “hangs” of some of the greatest artists of our time – backstage and personal – and the CDs capture almost four hours of live recordings of every band.
The deluxe hardcover edition, including the film on Blu-ray, in addition to the 3 CDs, an essay by Robin D. G. Kelley and exclusive photos, will be available from Concord Jazz on April 21, 2017, as well as a 3-CD edition. A 3-LP edition on 180-gram vinyl is planned for June 2.
Return to Forever Unplugged, with Clarke (bass), Lenny White (drums) and Frank Gambale (guitar), opens the set like a thundercrack. Lyrical explorations in a trio with Gary Peacock (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) follow, cutting a path for even more fireworks from fan-favorite Five Peace Band, co-led with McLaughlin (guitar), featuring Kenny Garrett (sax), John Patitucci (bass) and Blade. A duet with McFerrin (vocals) is pure improvisational magic from two masters of the form. Corea and his most frequent collaborator, Gary Burton (vibraphone) add the Harlem String Quartet for a virtuosic chamber jazz set.
From Miles, with Wallace Roney (trumpet), Gary Bartz (sax), Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) is a Davis tribute like no other: vibrant and swinging with the spirit of Miles himself. Flamenco Heart is a classic late-night Madrid party, featuring Concha Buika (vocals), Jorge Pardo (sax and flute), Carles Benavent (bass), Niño Josele (guitar), and Jeff Ballard (drums). Piano duets with Hancock and Marcus Roberts are brilliantly alive with emotion and virtuosity. The Elektric Band – Dave Weckl (drums), Patitucci, Eric Marienthal (sax) and Gambale – closes the album with a jolt of musical energy. Nobody who saw these shows will ever forget it.
The CDs capture the music with Corea’s characteristic thrilling live sound, and the documentary goes even further: with total access to Chick’s creative process, the film features live footage, but also rehearsals, backstage hangs and candid interviews with the musicians. Everything that goes into making music at this level – the hours of practice, rehearsals, gear moving in and out – is in full view.
The Musician is one of the great portraits of a true genius in his prime, at work. In every musical setting, Corea’s long history of creative adventurism made for the ultimate present-tense music. The title of the set followed naturally.
“That’s what the story’s about. It’s about musicians, being musicians,” Corea says. “When people ask me, ‘What did you learn from Miles?’ – that’s the salient thing that I took from my experience. Miles just let his musicians be themselves. He let them be musicians.”
The Musician is a look at Corea’s ongoing creative journey, one that never rests for long. His constant innovation as a composer, piano player and bandleader have earned him just about every award available to jazz musicians, including his status as a Downbeat Magazine Hall of Famer and NEA Jazz Master. He sits at #4 on the list of artists with the most Grammy nominations of all time. From straight-ahead to avant-garde, bebop to jazz-rock fusion, children’s songs to chamber works – all of which are embraced on The Musician – Corea has touched an astonishing number of musical bases in his career.
“One question I’m asked all the time is what setting do I like best – trios or full bands – or which musician do I like best to work with? Do I like to play the piano more than the Rhodes? The answer to any of those questions is the same, really – it’s all so less in importance to the act of creating, and the act of collaborating with another musician.”
The Musician shows Corea welcoming his 70th year with friends and thousands of fans. Now, five years later, he shows no sign of slowing down. He continues to look forward to more tours, more gigs, and more sessions. Looking back on the month-long celebration that is now remembered on The Musician, Corea calls it motivation “to keep on experimenting and researching and putting new bands together and playing music. It’s that simple.”