Photo by Toshi Sakurai (2014). Courtesy Chick Corea Productions.
I was very young, three years old maybe, and my mother would record my father’s band off the radio. She used a straight to vinyl Parlaphone recorder. I still have those old vinyl recordings. My father used to use it to record me when I was a kid. One of those recordings is on a box set released in 1996. I think I was about seven on that recording.
I had started studying piano around four years old—my father was my first teacher. At the time, my biggest influences were Bud Powell and Horace Silver—later on, compositionally, those influences came by the way of Mozart and Beethoven.
Miles [Davis] was, and still is, a great inspiration to me. I’m always inspired when I see musicians being competent and creative. “Exploration” was the order of the day back in the Sixties and Seventies when I was beginning to find my way in music. Miles certainly had a big part in that for me.
At the time I was in love with Miles’ ‘Sketches of Spain’, with Gil Evans. I still am. On that record, Gil has this fantastic arrangement—it’s the second movement of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. I fooled around with that theme, extended it and composed some melodies, which turned out to be the main themes of ‘Spain’. I always play Rodrigo’s second movement as a keyboard intro.
Paco [de Lucía] inspired me in the construction of my own musical world as much as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, or Bartok and Mozart. Paco’s moving on leaves a gigantic hole in the musical life of this world. It was a lot of fun performing with him—he was a passionate musician.
To be honest, I have been very fortunate with my career. Life has its ebbs and flows, but I don’t consider having a low point. I’ve been lucky to write and play my music without a lot of hindrance or obstacles.
A high point has to be seeing Bobby McFerrin body surfing at Carnegie Hall. He got the audience to pass him from the stage all the way to the back of the hall. He came back on stage to finish the song, totally unharmed! We always have a blast performing together.
I usually don’t have enough time on tour to really explore. But in my many visits to Spain, I’ve enjoyed the food. I love watching Flamenco dancing—that’s such a beautiful art form. I’m also an admirer of Antoni Gaudí. His buildings have a very organic look and feel to them unlike any other.
I will have both an acoustic piano and electric keyboards [for the concert in Barcelona]. Some new music and arrangements–I haven’t quite put that together yet. We are going to be rehearsing at my new studio in Florida for a few days before the tour. So it will be a surprise!
Playing with musicians that inspire me—young or old—is part of what I do. So it’s always great to find them and create music together.
This year is also my 75th birthday [and 50th anniversary in music]. We have lots of special concerts lined up in the US and Europe, as well as Japan. My manager and my production team have been putting together a documentary and we plan to release that. I hope to be releasing more of my online workshops and master classes. So a lot is happening…stay tuned!
Chick Corea & The Vigil plays Auditori de Barcelona October 22nd at 8pm.