NOW HE SINGS

If I delay writing, I’ll stall for sure.

Too much information will kill the personal resonance.

What do I do with this Chick-shaped hole?

Attempting to cover a sixty year career is daunting.

… a few of the thoughts tumbling through the Vinyl Connection brain box as the news of Chick Corea’s death hits home.

He was seventy-nine, not old these days. A father and grandfather.

He was a follower of L. Ron Hubbard’s fantasy Scientology cult, but that didn’t seem to help him; his cancer was undiagnosed and of an “unknown” type.

Cancer. Scientology. Shit. Stick with the music.

Chick Corea was a magnificent pianist, an adventurer, a creator, an innovator and a collaborator par excellence. The restlessness of his talent is visible throughout a long career, one that encompassed solo albums, duos, groups, composition, performance and an ever-present love of music.

Chick Corea’s album Return To Forever  was the first ECM record I purchased. You can read more about that wonderful disc in a Vinyl Connection post, here. Promptly decamping to Polydor, Corea released Light As A Feather, which feels like a companion piece to Return To Forever. Light As A Feather is a very accessible album, with a couple of gorgeous songs delivered with soaring purity by Flora Purim. (In passing, this would be a great entry point for those curious about Corea’s music.)

From there, this fusion-curious listener pursued Return To Forever (the band), thrilling to the fireworks of Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola and of course, drummer Lenny White across a trio of astonishing and exciting mid-70s fusion albums.

‘Music Magic’ is subbing for ‘No Mystery’, which I stupidly sold when I got the CD in the late 80s

For fans of progressive fusion, the 1976 Return To Forever album Romantic Warrior is perhaps the pinnacle of the genre. The melodies are complex yet catchy and the playing eye-wateringly good and there are some killer riffs. When Return To Forever re-reformed with premier fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty (and brilliant Australian born guitarist Frank Gambale) and announced a tour, I recall hoping there might be a live album in the works. There was—a double CD set plus DVD—but better news was to come. The band (with Lenny White and Stanley Clarke) came to Melbourne and Ms Connection and I saw them in the beautiful Regent Theatre one muggy February night in 2011. Bliss.

We saw Chick live in 2015, too. Playing a duo concert with keyboard legend Herbie Hancock. That concert received its own post, which can be found here.

One of Chick Corea’s most fertile and successful collaboration was with vibraphone master Gary Burton. Their first album together—Crystal Silence—is a work of luminous beauty and ethereal charm. Imagine what balances Hawkwind on the other side of the universe and you might get a hint of the delicate interplay of these two musicians dancing together. It’s a magic captured beautifully on the 2LP live album released by ECM in 1980.

If the Corea/Burton combo floats like the bubbles in a flute of fine champagne, some of Corea’s early piano work is more like a stiff belt of Scotch. A VC favourite is the 1968 trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, the CD re-issue of which includes excellent bonus material. Some of Chick’s free jazz work with Barry Altshul is also worth investigating if that’s your bag.

You know that epigram about how few people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but all of them formed bands? Well there is a well-documented parallel in jazz-rock with almost everyone from the 1970 Miles Davis band shooting off on their own fusion trajectories and multi-handedly creating a new genre of music. Chick Corea plays electric piano on Bitches Brew, toured with Miles (he’s on Live at the Fillmore) and soon after formed Return To Forever. In the 1980s, Corea put together a pair of units, the Elektric Band and, you guessed it, the Akoustic Band. I’m not as familiar with this material, partially because the 70s jazz-rock material is so brilliant it’s where I turn when the mood strikes, and partly because of the eighties sheen on those albums.

Some Corea collaborations. The Five Peace Band with John McLaughlin is powerful jazz (cf. fusion)

Taking a breath, I realise I’ve veered away from personal reminisce into a discography tour. That wasn’t the intention, but perhaps it’s a way of protecting myself from a tide of sadness at the passing of a musician who had a huge role in forming my musical tastes. So let’s not dwell on the loss, but on the legacy. A sprawling catalogue of variety and adventure, of reflection and pretension; of mischief and melancholy, muscle and magic.

Vale, Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea.

Thank you.

 

45 comments

  1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    What an ode Bruce! I’m sorry for your loss but glad you captured the moment for this send-off of sorts. I now have at least three albums to explore in the coming days…my only experience previously was a duo with Herbie I had on cassette, where each played in either speaker. Fun being in the middle so to speak. Be well and thanks for putting this together. Lucky you got to see him perform that muggy February.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bill. Delighted you got a couple of leads. 🙂
      Yes, a “send-off” fits.
      With public figures, the loss manifests differently. There’s more room for celebration and appreciation. As I finished the piece I noticed how I was drawn to the colourful album covers. Much of Chuck’s music is similarly vibrant. A rich musical life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Seems a good hole to slip down in, with pending snow. Like the way you draw his album art as a reflection of his life, that’s lovely.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A nice tribute, Bruce, and your farewell is my introduction, I haven’t listened to almost any of this, but will draw on your list. I instantly recognized one of the album covers “The Leprechaun” from flipping through my dad’s college albums, he has at least a half-dozen Corea albums, but not Crystal Silence, I just asked. I’m listening to that now, recorded live in Norway, gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great, Robert. Just about the biggest thrill in music blogging is when something new hits the mark on new years.

      Like

  3. Dr Richard Varey · · Reply

    A sad thing, his passing. But, boy, what a legacy for us to enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a massive and varied catalogue, isn’t it?!
      Thanks for dropping by, Richard.

      Like

  4. I might have to send Z out for a walk after she’s finished meditating so I can set Romantic Warrior at a suitable volume for a send off. Meanwhile Water Babies plays gently as I write.
    With luck, Live – Evil will arrive this Monday (ordered recently) to lift the latest lockdown onto a higher plane. Another walk for Z?

    A fine tribute, Bruce.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting, DD. Yes, Romantic Warrior does deserve some space-filling volume, for sure. As indeed, will Live-Evil; that’s a monster!
      Did you know, Chick is on Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968). Superb LP.

      Like

      1. Filles .de … followed Water Babies in the stacker yesterday. A five km walk with Forever via headphones has a certain lockdown-tribute appeal for today.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes indeed. I’m finding the sheer variety of CC’s work make it very attractive to spend time with.

          Like

          1. Bitches Brew needs an outing too, I reckon.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. What once felt like swigging petrol now goes down like a robust Shiraz.

              Liked by 2 people

            2. It’s ridiculous to say that I have a soft spot for BB but the idea of comparing it with a robust Shiraz appeals.
              BTW Only just playing Romantic Warrior – a fine album. I created a mischievous ground loop with a new piece of equipment, which postponed the pleasure.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Hm. Best stay off the loopy ground, coz. Probably the Shiraz too, but that’s a whole other level of difficulty, I find.

              Like

  5. A fine tribute and tour, Bruce. His name has appeared numerous times during my jazz exploration over the last few months and I regret to say that I hadn’t yet delved into what he offered despite there being a few titles on my list.

    It’s a peculiar sadness when we lose someone whose music has meant so much to us over the years… and it’s fitting that the music helps with that loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly right, J. It sounds a bit naff, but when I sat down to write, I felt quite sad. Yet by the time the piece was written and the photos taken, the feelings had softened. I guess writing, and sharing as we do in blogs, helps that process.
      Thanks for reading and sharing, mate.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I had no idea he was a Scientologist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. Many of the 80s albums have some kind of L.Ron Hubbard dedication. 🤪

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember my favourite bookstore got a complete set of Hubbard’s 10 volume Mission Earth. It looked neat but I couldn’t imagine slogging through. It’s not like his name is held aloft with Asimov or Clarke!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True. But neither Isaac nor Arthur invented a religion!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sadly Hubbard made a lot more money with his religion than Clarke did conceiving the geostationary communications satellite.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. And he announced in advance! At a convention/speaking gig in the 40s, Hubbard commented that if you REALLY wanted to get rich, you just had to invent a religion. QED.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Yep, true, he did.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks, VC. You once again decided the soundtrack for an extended night walk. First was Chick’s Return to Forever, followed by Return to Forever’s Romantic Warrior. These were maybe not the most outré choices but certainly good for a celebration. I want to try out the Corea/Burton LPs soon.

    One silver lining is that we now have the comfort of knowing that we won’t be missing out on any new CC after our own eventual returns to forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rock solid choices, Vic. Or perhaps Jazz-Rock solid.
      I wonder how you’ll go with the filigree and scintillations of the vibes/el. piano duo?

      I’d definitely have Chick on the electric piano stool in my heavenly combo. Although the wonderful (and already in the appropriate plane of existence) Alan Gowen might well be granted the left channel.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. 365musicmusings · · Reply

    Nice tribute indeed. Very illuminating and made me interested to check out some more from him. I bought “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy” used, based on the title alone. Enjoyed, but never ended up seeking any more. Till now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks 365mm. Hope you find more to enjoy in CC’s extensive catalogue. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nicely done Bruce, very nicely done indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joe. I’ve noticed the (all too frequent) obit posts kind of write themselves. Odd, but it seems appropriate.

      Like

  10. Good stuff Bruce. A friend has a radio program and I mentioned Chick so he thoughtfully played ‘7th Galaxy’. Later. I could make this longer but like you said, it’s about the music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t write. Spin Romantic Warrior instead. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Man do I like it when I get specific instructions. I’m kinda excited about that revist. You are a good guy Bruce. I have a pic of Chick on my fridge. A “Chick Magnet” I picked up in one of those record stores a long time ago. It’s not like I’m a super cray fan but I put it there just because.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s wonderful. I wanna Chick magnet too. (Only kind possible, really).
          Hey, CB, I know we align perfectly on jazz-rock, but I forget where you are with krautrock and in particular, Faust. Ya see, I’m posting on their debut this Friday and I thought about our conversations re min-bending albums.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I am a little light on the KR. I think I mentioned Triumvirat before. Grobschnitt is another. I will check out the post on Friday for sure. “Mind-bending is what I need.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. I spun it. was a few years between listens. I picked up a Zappa vibe on a few tunes. Enjoyed the listen. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for that, I seem to have amassed an amount of Chick Corea records over the months and Bitches Brew arrived the day before the power left us. Symbolic maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re Texas? Man, lots of cuddles to survive, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oregon all the way Bruce. Too many trees with above ground power lines and we chose to live rurally.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah. Yes. A book group acquaintance recently moved to a valley in inland Washington State. They don’t do internet there (but do have electricity). Hope the Wichita linesman arrived soon.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Lovely, Bruce. No doubt the man would be honored by your post, written with the passion and care of a true fan. My introduction to Corea was via my cousin Paul. When my family visited his at their beach house for a couple of weeks every summer, Paul would bunk with his older brothers and I would use his room. Said room included an 8-track tape player (!!) and an assortment of whatever music had struck his fancy recently. One summer (1976 or 1977?), that included Romantic Warrior. (That I was instantly drawn to the artwork won’t, I imagine, surprise you). It was definitely unlike anything I’d listened to regularly up to that point…I mean that in a good sense, though my intrigue at what I heard wasn’t long lasting. I do have a dim recollection of checking out some of Al DiMeola’s early solo LPs because I knew he’d been on Romantic Warrior. It wasn’t until I read CC’s obituary in the New York Times that I realized he’d been born in Massachusetts. (I confess I was very disappointed to learn he was a Scientologist…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, you have to kind of turn away from the Scientology schtick, don’t you? I’ve probably said this before, but Romantic Warrior is high in my top 10 jazz-rock albums, probably because it has more of a prog feel than almost anything else. I imagine you’d enjoy some of Jean-Luc Ponty’s (violin-led) fusion albums too.

      A bedroom 8-track player is such an image. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have, indeed, enjoyed some things by Ponty over the years. Those cousins were the first people I ever knew with an 8-track player (one even had one mounted under the dashboard of his car!)…I eventually got one for my own bedroom…the first 8-track tape I ever owned was Boston’s debut offering…God, I feel old!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, but maturity is more than a feeling, JDB.
          (Sorry)

          Liked by 1 person

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