Chick Corea: Hear 12 Essential Performances
Chick Korea, the leading keyboardist and bandlader who Died on Tuesday at 79, Will forever be considered an important architect of jazz-rock fusion.
This is a one line tribute. Whether on its own, leading the collective Return for Forever or with landmark albums including Miles Davis (“In a Silent Way” and “Bits Brew”), Korea helped enrich the lexicon of jazz – keeping its melodic language Merged with heaviness. (And amplification) of rock and foul smell. But no description, even this comprehensive one, can contain a vision so boundless.
“Ultimately, formal style is only a later thing – an extension of the creative impulse” Cora told the new York Times In 1983. “Nobody sits down and decides to write, especially in a predetermined style. A genre is not something you learn so much as you synthesize. Musicians don’t care if a given composition is jazz, Pop or classical music. They care about whether it’s good music – is it challenging and exciting. “
For more than five decades, Corey modified his voice to follow the simple adage – which pursues fusion from contemporary classical to bee-free jazz. He recorded the album near 90 as a band-leader or co-leader. And he always preferred melody and musicality over empty-calorie show-combination (though few could rival his raw skills at Fender Rhodes).
Here are 12 of his elite studio and live performances.
‘Miles Run the Voodoo Down’ (1970)
This slinky, funky cut from John McLaughlin’s ice-pick guitar and Davis’s tear trumpet punctures Miles Davis’ “Bits Brew,” as Korea and Joe Zavinul wallow Rhodes. The rhythm section is so dense, it’s hard to taste it all: two electric basses (Dave Holland and Harvey Brooks), two drum sets (Don Alias and Jack Dehonette) and Zuma Santos’s congas. Good thing it lasts for 14 minutes. Keyboardists shift from the question mark to the exclamation points – one against the moment groove, the next in a single of colored noise. “trust yourself,” Korya said In 2020, Davis had a vision. “When he says, ‘Play what you don’t hear,’ he means, trust your imagination. Trust yourself, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I’m going to do it Because it’s fun. Because I love it. ‘”
“Spaces”, from Korea guitarist Larry Coryell, plays the electric piano throughout this nine-minute monster from a column of early fusion. The arrangement is tethered between structure and improvisation, straight grooves and temporal freedom. The lineup is the definition of a supergroup: Koreya and Coryell, plus John McLaughlin on guitar, Miroslav Vitaus (later weather report) and Billy Kohm on double drums.
A rare fusion tune with shelf life as a jazz standard, “Spain” remains Corea’s signature creation – covered by artists as varied as Stevie Wonder and Bella Fleck. The original is untouchable from Return to Forever’s “Light Feather Feather,”: In about 10 minutes, the keyboardists happily pivot between Rhodes, their melodious tunes matching Flora Purim’s tracheal coo and Joe Farrell’s wavy flute Huh. The chorus, with its clipped keyboard phrases and upbeat handclaps, ranks as one of the best moments in Fusion history with the Weather Report’s main “birdland” theme.
‘Space Circus, Part I’ / ‘Space Circus, Part II’ (1973)
In its early stages, Return to Forever had already rivaled the intensity of most ’70s rock bands. But adding two new recruits (Powerhouse drummer Lenny White and guitarist Bill Connors) and converting Stanley Clarke into an electric base seemed positively positive on its third album. The group showed their full dynamic range return on this two-porter in Forever’s “Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy”, which opens with Coria’s fictional Rhodes theme before venturing into a tightly-foul funk. Connors’ sordid guitar and Clark’s distorted-riffs drift into the psychological-rock realm – but whenever the keyboard player retracts slightly, his steady sticks remain the heartbeat of the ensemble.
‘Song to John (Part I)’ / ‘Song to John (Part II)’ (1975)
On the first part of these tracks from Stanley Clarke’s “Journey to Love”, Coeya’s acoustic piano slips into dormant new-age territory, trading fanfare with Clarke’s tilted bass and John McLaughlin’s acoustic guitar. The group went down an intense Latin groove on the second half, with McLaughlin and Cora fireworks. In the liner notes, Clarke dedicated a two-part piece to John Coltrane – and it lives up to Billings.
The definitive return to the Forever lineup – Cora, Clarke, White and guitarist Al Di Meola – scattered after the 1976 album “Romantic Warrior”. But as this funky odyssey proves, they went to a near peak. White is credited as the composer here, and his fearless drum groove definitely keeps the engine running. But “Sorceress” also finds Corea in its most versatile, keyboard-wise – weaving in atmospheric pads, squeaky synth leads and Latin themes on acoustic piano.
‘Spanish Fantasy’ (1976)
Korea was always influenced by Latin music, explaining that “taste, I think, is mostly what I make.” Billboard In 2019. “It’s a part of me. I don’t know how to break it apart.” But he never drowned more deeply than in his 10th solo LP, “My Spanish Heart.” Record this whiplash four-part suit Appears alongside, which extends from elegant string and brass segments to acoustic pianos for Staley Dan’s “most delicious jazz-rock rave-up of this side of Aaja.”
‘The Short Tales of the Black Forest’ (1976)
Crafted by Korea for their forever bandmate Thee Meola’s debut solo album, “Land of the Midnight Sun”, this mini-epic makes good use of its virtuous flash – both players sound as if they were playing their instruments in the sky. Can drift away from. But these five-and-a-half minutes create plenty of graceful tunes. Midway through, Cora slips into gentle cordal comping while Diola climbs up and over the scales. Coria also gets to showcase her marimba skills, adding extra drama to a climax.
Coria and Herbie Hancock, two of Fusion’s elite keyboardists, embarked on an acoustic duo tour in 1978, and the pair, both veterans of the Miles Davis band, interlocked to a surprising degree on the two new LPs that emerged from those dates . A highlight is a 19-minute version of “Homecoming” from “CoreaHancock”, with experts merging their tools into their organism. They gracefully move towards ugliness – intermittently, adding this piece to a segment of guttural stride, percussive pounding and ready piano madness.
Like most fusion veterans who survived in the mid-80s, Coera took on the colors and forms of the times, forming his electric band with drummer Dave Wakeley, bassist John Petitucci, and alternative guitarists Scott Henderson and Carlos Rios. The rhythmic stream runs free of “The Chick Korea Electric Band” on this catchy number, defined by its twisting, zappa-like rhythms and Korea’s comically bright synthesizer.
‘Spain (Live)’ (1992)
Cora drew “Spain” like Taffy for decades, retaining her interest by remodeling it for various settings and band configurations. (“1976 or so, I started to tire of the song,” he told the Atlantic in 2011. “I really started playing distorted versions of it – I only refer to it for a second, then I’ll go to a improvisation.”) One of their most amazing later days is this live acoustic duet. From “Play” with singer Bobby McFerrin, who breathes new life with his divine falsetto, intensifies bass lines and body collisions. For all the sublime technique, the biggest revelation is hearing these two giants lock on the main subject in perfect symmetry.
‘Crystal Silence’ (2008)
Cora re-worked with Vibrography Gary Burton for the Grammy-winning, double-disc live LP “The New Crystal Silence”, which was largely built on pieces created from Korea’s back catalog. The two collaborated together for decades, and the music here feels appropriately natural and full-bodied as Zen, with an extended take on “crystal silence”. Crispy, studio-level fidelity, imprisoned in Correa and Burton trade phrases and counterparts patterns, round that haggard conversation with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.