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Chick Corea

I've been so busy with my own music, and with my neuro disease company ALSP that I haven't mentioned a couple of great shows I saw recently at SF Jazz. September 12, The Chick Corea Trio, with Christian McBride and Brian Blade played the Miner Auditorium. Christian is, along with Charnette Moffat, and John Patitucci, one of the premier acoustic bass players of his generation. And Brian Blade is perhaps the most creative and abstract drummer around, with credits ranging from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, to Joni Mitchell, Steve Earle, and Bob Dylan. Chick first played with Christian and Brian in the Five Peace Band with John McLaughlin in 2009. Five years later he toured with them as a trio, and their 2015 live 3 disc recording earned two GRAMMYS for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, and Best Jazz Instrumental Album. From standards to originals, they make the familiar seem fresh, and the unfamiliar a warm home.
Thursday evening Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock performed as a duo at Cal Performances. For many years Cal Performances has booked jazz programming to rival or surpass SF Jazz. To me, and I imagine many others, this was the anticipated jazz concert of the season. It did not dissapoint. Two paralel Steinway concert grands with the lids down, and two synth keyboards were all these grandmasters needed. From the first few notes on acoustic, they sounded exactly as I thought they might. Chromatic, slightly dissonant, at first I thought they were channeling Webern, but from the program notes of other performances, it may well have been excerpts from Bartok's Mikrokosmos. Chick tended to play lead in the upper register as the improvisation unfolded, with Herbie providing telepathic accompianment with chords in the middle and lower register. Given identical instruments, it was instructive to hear the difference in tone; Chick brighter throughout the evening, Herbie darker and lush. This first piece segued into All Blues! I've always said great improvisors can make an old piece fresh; it took the audience a while to realize what they were hearing. Herbie, of course, was still with Miles when that tune was occasionally in the set list. Although only a year apart, Chick spoke of first seeing Herbie lead a jam session on a Monday night in 1959 at Birdland, and has considered him a hero ever since. Herbie spoke of once calling Chick from a recording session to make sure a tune he had just written wasn't in fact Chick's. The template was set for the evening's performance: an ultra-modern chromatic intro, which could range from ballad to stride, eventually turning into a re-worked chestnut from their pasts. Cole Porter's (You'd Be) So Easy to Love was a delight. The encores: Maiden Voyage, and then Spain, with Chick leading the audience in a four part sing-along harmony. At one point he had the audience sing back phrases he and Herbie were improvising. It literally took the audience inside the head of the performer. Bravo!
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