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Chick Corea

His musical genius never in doubt, his opinions never dull and with his creativity seemingly getting ever sharper Jazz composer/pianist Chick Corea took a few minutes out from an ambitious tour schedule to talk to me about his newest creation The Ultimate Adventure CD and a program that he has created for Vienna Austria's celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday. The program will be presented this July.

About the Mozart piece he says, "The fact that they chose an American Jazz musician to fulfill this (program) was the most interesting part about it. I thought (he starts to laugh) it was kind of wise on their part because in the spirit of Mozart means in the spirit of creativity not in the spirit of museum like classical music. They wanted something that would be creative and lively. They wanted an artist who would be willing to communicate with the audience. It (my piece) won't be a serious dead program which is the death of classical music. I consider it an honor and I am steeped in preparing it right now."

Corea is assembling a thirty piece ensemble to not only perform on July 2nd in Vienna but to engage audiences in perhaps as many as fifteen other concerts around Europe. He says that the program will consist of two major pieces a multi piano concerto based on Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor. The other piece will be an original piano concerto by Corea.

Corea's new Jazz CD The Ultimate Adventure continues his fondness for Tone Poems a genre he has pioneered. "It is a very interesting and uncharted area. What I have noticed since doing To The Stars (2004) and now The Ultimate Adventure is it circled its way back to my very first recorded efforts," he says. Corea told me as he looked back at some of his earlier compositions he observed that his fondness for matching images to musical notes has been there since the beginning of his career. "It started with Tones For Joan's Bones(1966), continued with Now He Sings, Now He Sobs(1968), Return To Forever(1972) The Leprechaun(1976), My Spanish Heart(1976) and The Mad Hatter(1978)," he says rhyming off several splendid compositions his fans have come to appreciate over the years.

"I have been infiltrating characters and writing little stories. I would see something to portray and then write the music. Mostly what would happen is I would write music and then images would come to fit it. This CD (The Ultimate Adventure) involved finding the images first and then finding the music to portray it," he says.

Corea described for me the transformation that took place in taking Hubbard's characters from words on the page of a novel to giving them a heartbeat through musical notes. The number five track on The Ultimate Adventure features Queen Tedmur. Flutist Hubert Laws creates an ethereal ambience to depict Corea's perception of the romantic traits in Queen Tedmur's personality. Corea's own work on the keys is lively and adds a dimension of excitement.

"A writer uses words to make a picture but the fun thing about literature is the reader makes his own picture. I had my picture of Queen Tedmur based on L. Ron Hubbard's descriptions of her. She became a complete character as to how she looked, moved, spoke and thought," he says. Corea delves into Queen Tedmur's character to the point where he believes he has captured the essence of her ethical principles. He says, "I see her as this high principled, beautiful queen who would give her life for the honor of supporting the truth. She is very courageous."

Once he had a clear picture of Queen Tedmur in his head Corea began work on the melody. The music of The Ultimate Adventure is richly infused with Flamenco influences. He says, "The lyricism of the melody was combined with the rhythmic part of it which was more or less a flamenco Jazz rhythm."

Corea called upon his old friend Laws to bring Queen Tedmur to our ears. "For Queen Tedmur I immediately thought of Hubert Laws. How wonderful to have Hubert's warm big rich flute sounds portray the melody." Tim Garland's bass clarinet adds to the rich tones.

"I was open to more ways of doing things on this project than probably any other one. The same kind of buzz that I got on To The Stars I got with this project. I really enjoy composing," Corea says enthusiastically.

"I don't think I ever had a recording where I used so many different combinations of musicians. It was quite exciting especially with them being old dear friends like Steve Gadd (drums) and Hubert Laws. I hadn't played with Hubert since the sixties. It was just a blast to play (while recording)." Corea says it was also a learning experience for him to see first hand how Flamenco musicians such as Carles Benavent (bassist and palmas), Jorge Pardo (palmas) and Rubem Dantas (palmas) interpreted the compositions.

When Corea created To The Stars his centerpiece was the character of Captain Jocelyn, a spaceship captain who author L. Ron Hubbard also depicted as an accomplished pianist. Corea says Hubbard's description of the effect that Jocelyn's music had on his audience helped the composer to easily imagine the type of musician Captain Jocelyn was. "I immediately heard music that went to that. (I thought) 'I know how that guy plays. He plays something like this.' Then I wrote it down," says the composer.

"I think literature is an incredible art form. Literature can leave wide open the reader's imagination. That's one of the things I don't like about movies they give you everything. You become a little bit passive when you watch a movie. When I read literature I participate with it. I use my imagination to create what the writer is writing," he says.

Corea's musical influences and in particular Jazz were fostered at an early age. His father was a Jazz trumpeter. In his voice you hear the fondness for the memory as he says, "I was lucky to find myself in a musical family surrounded by musicians and bands. My father had records of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Billy Eckstein's big band. I loved the atmosphere and I took to it right away. I made it my own. It was fun to me."

Corea vividly recalls his first year at school. When he was asked to lay his head down on the desk at rest time, "I thought, 'Who is this crazy lady? I'm not tired. What am I doing smelling this dirty desk with my nose when I could be at home playing the piano," he says. He goes on to say, "Making music always looked like the real world to me and school always looked like some made up fantasy robot world somehow."

For Corea, an artist whether a writer, musician, dancer or painter should be at the cutting edge of revolution and reform. "Artists have new thoughts. They go, 'Well here is an independent thought. It could be this way.' Then they go ahead and do something. It always goes against the grain. That is the game that I see and I am very happy to be playing it," he states.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chick Corea
  • Interview Date: 3/1/2006
  • Subtitle: The Ultimate Adventure
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