In this age of technology and the individual, in which cultural relativism and the democratisation of ideas fool many of us into believing that we can all be artists (this writer included), during his concert last Thursday evening at L’Auditori de Barcelona, American jazz and classical pianist and composer Chick Corea gave amicable yet explicit reminders that the recognition of genius is still essentially important.
Corea, 74, who has won 22 Grammys and played with every jazz great, from Miles Davis to Dizzy Gillespie to Herbie Hancock, is considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. For this performance, he was accompanied by his first-rate young band The Vigil—featuring Carlitos del Puerto on bass, drummer Marcus Gilmore, Tim Garland on saxophones, flute and bass clarinet, guitarist Charles Altura, and Luisito Quintero as percussionist—who were met by a rapturous crowd of 1,300.
All played with immaculate musicianship, the nearly two-hour long acoustic and electric set consisted of five songs. 'Tempus Fugit', the evening’s opener and Bud Powell original, began with sheeny piano glissandos and resolved itself in the ordered commotion of Garland’s sax; 'Royalty', dipped into oneiric exploration with sharp melody lines. And 'Anna’s Tango', a tune written for Chick’s mother, engaged the bandleader in ticklish repartee with del Puerto, beckoning Altura hitch on by way of calypsonian guitar licks.
On the few occasions that Corea addressed the crowd in Sala 1 of L'Auditori, he, for a little Spanish flair, often tried to trill his Rs and say his Ts without aspiration. He even had a go at pronouncing Barcelona in Castilian: Barthelona. Yet his accent was pure and heavy Bostonian. And he innocuously poked fun at long Latin names, getting a healthy laugh from the empathic onlookers, when he revealed his full legal name: 'Armando Anthony Chick Corea'.
For the final two numbers, Corea invited Catalan bassist Carles Benevent on stage, introducing him, as a 'friend'. Having both played with Paco de Lucía, the musicians covered the Spanish master’s 'Zyryab'. Corea walked around the stage, which allowed Benevent to root the thundery jam to hoary, harrowing basslines. Gilmore and Quintero both took lengthy solos that were as abyssal as they were DNA-strand tight centripetal.
The entire show was a demonstration of to Corea’s consummate ability to play any style of music and of his exceptional artistry. But during 'Spain', which is likely his most well-known composition, the audience, encouraged by Corea, joined in the musical conversation by echoing in chorus the notes of the final tune, showing that we can all participate, even if we can’t all be geniuses.
Chick & the Vigil perform Tuesday at Auditiorio Nacional in Madrid; http://chickcorea.com.
Hear more from the man himself in our interview with Chick Corea.