By C.B. Liddell
TOKYO, 7 MARCH 2010 In December of 2009, Chick Corea, in
company with Lenny White and Stanley Clarke, played a run of six nights at
Tokyo Blue Note. Culturekiosque's C.B.Liddell caught up with the jazz/
fusion keyboard legend to find out his thoughts on playing one of his
favorite venues as well as "the code" that has guided him since his early
work with Miles Davis through to the present day.
CBL: It seems to me that jazz is essentially about keeping it fresh.
This means that with a well-known piece of music, each time, youve got to
take it somewhere else, because people have already heard it one way. This
means that the relationship with the audience is key, which means
understanding what they know and improvising within their capability to
comprehend. Do you agree?
CC: It's a good viewpoint, but there are many ways to think about these
things, maybe as many ways as there are people who think.
CBL: As an international performer jetting in, how are you able to take
account of what the local audience is ready for? Or do you think the onus
is on the local jazz audience to catch up with wherever you are as a
CC: I like to create a friendly atmosphere with audiences no matter
what the physical time or situation. I like to bring the audience
something beautiful, maybe entertaining. I leave it up to each member of
the audience to experience the music the way they do, as this is a very
subjective and personal thing. I always bear in mind that the "audience"
is made up of individuals, each one with his own tastes and own way of
thinking about and living life, and also enjoying music.
CBL: A few years ago, at the Tokyo Jazz Festival you had a very
effective piano duet with Hiromi Uehara on "Spain." It started at a place
where everybody knew what it was and what was going on and developed from
there, and there was a great sense of you and Hiromi playing off each
other and taking the piece to a new place in front of the audience. Having
Hiromi there also meant you were more in touch with even the less
sophisticated parts of the audience as everyone was following the changes
in an organic and connected way. What did you learn from that experience
or how did it feel?
CC: It was a lot of fun playing with Hiromi. She has the great quality
of interpreting everything she plays in her own way, and so I always felt
comfortable exchanging musical phrases with her. I felt like I was
exchanging with someone who had their own viewpoint about music and life.
In a way she was predictably unpredictable.
CBL: This also showed the importance in jazz of musicians playing off
each other. As long as they start somewhere that the audience "gets," the
interplay, as long as its not too exaggerated or accelerated, can take
the piece of music almost anywhere with the whole audience on board. Will
you be taking a similar approach this trip with Lenny and Stanley?
CC: Each musical performance is new and each musician I play with is
unique. So I don't try to predict what will happen too much. I know I will
be playing with incredibly creative partners. If we establish an
atmosphere of creativity and adventure, I know that "things will happen."
There must be enough things that are not set down and are not decided in
order to create enough friendly motion and randomness to make it
interesting. And usually I find if it's interesting to the musicians, it
will be interesting to the audience.
CBL: A lot of people might remember the work you, Stanley and Lenny did
with the late, lamented Joe Henderson. How is just the three of you going
to differ from having Joe along for the ride? He was a wild player, so
would it be true to say that without him, its going to be a more sedate
CC: We'll play, you'll listen, and then you'll decide what the
experience is for you.
CBL: What do you see as the biggest strengths of Stanley and Lenny?
CC: They are both brilliant improvisers and rhythm masters.
CBL: With any good combo, theres always a mysterious X-factor. Can you
put your finger on it with these guys? In a way, youre all
percussionists, as your piano style is heavily percussive. Once a good
rhythm groove is established it must be pretty easy to get in and out of
each others shoes. Or is there more to it than that?
CC: No need to say more about an "X factor" than it is an X factor,
and, as I said, we must leave so much up to the spontaneity of the moment.
To try to describe music, one must be a poet, otherwise there's no point
in trying except to chat a bit. I like to let the music speak for itself
and let each person decide what he thinks about it.
CBL: What sort of shows can Tokyo audiences expect?
CC: Technically, it will be an acoustic trio, and we will play our
nightly interpretation of standards and some of our own compositions.
CBL: I'd just like to ask one question about Miles. Bitches
Brew is one of those albums that sounds great now that weve had
plenty of time to sit down and give it our attention, but at the time it
must have helped create the image of jazz as something a bit too esoteric
and self indulgent. How do you remember that time? Were you with Miles all
the way or was it a case of "only following orders," and then thinking
afterwards, "Man, Miles was right?"
CC: There is a code of ethics amongst the musicians I play with. It's
unspoken, but you can tell what it is after you've been around it for a
while. I have my own code and part of it is to take whatever offerings my
fellow musicians are making and try to make something beautiful and
interesting out of those offerings. I really have learned to not evaluate
what is "right." I can only know when I like it or I don't, and this
especially applies during a performance. With Miles, there was never
anything I didn't like about what he was trying to do, and he never gave
me orders. He only led the band by example, by playing the way he played,
passionately and straight forward without asking anyone if it was ok what
he was doing. He had a lot of integrity in that regard. During my stay in
the band, he let each musician find his own voice within the music. The
other part of the code is "everyone has his own tastes in music and art."
It must be this way for Life to be Life. Each member of the audience, each
musician playing the music, the writers of music, the DJs, the restaurant
owners, the cab drivers, the young children everyone has this
right freedom of expression, freedom to think for oneself. These are
God-given freedoms. They're part of "the code."
C. B. Liddell is a Tokyo-based journalist who writes on culture
for the International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun newspaper. He last interviewed the
Chairman of the Japan Communist Party, Kazuo
Shii for Culturekiosque.com.
CALENDAR TIPS: chosen by the editors as being of
interest to Culturekiosque readers.
19 - 20
Blue Note Jazz
Chick Corea / Gary Burton
29 March 2010
Teatro de la Ciudad de
Chick Corea / Gary Burton
13 - 14 April 2010
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
Chick Corea / Gary Burton Duet
16 - 17 April
Dakota Bar and Grill
Chick Corea artist site: www.chickcorea.com/
CD TIP: All releases are chosen by the editors as
being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.
Crystal Silence The ECM Recordings
Gary Burton, vibraphone; Chick Corea, piano
ECM Records: 4 CDs (September 2009)
In Gosford Park (2001), Robert Altman's stylish evocation of
the British Upper Class, Constance, Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith)
wryly questions the handsome matinée idol and family cousin
germain Ivor Novello about his latest, less-than-successful film. In
a withering exchange, she suggests it must be devastating to realize one
is a flop.
Such a humbling realization must be a common
occurrence among the legions of contemporary pop musicians (of all
persuasions) and not a few jazz and classical musicians when exposed to
ECM's 4-CD set: Crystal Silence The ECM Recordings 1972-79 by
pianist and composer Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton.
Their seamless collaboration attains a level of artistic achievement
that is seldom heard in an age of expensively packaged but aesthetically
questionable commodities trying to pass as art or entertainment. No amount
of electronic remix, video sleight-of-hand, insipid social provocation or
celebrity buzz can possibly match the originality and urbane musicianship
heard in these performances. Moreover, as with all important art, this
music is as astonishing and fresh today as it was when first made over
thirty years ago.
Antoine du Rocher
Chick Corea: Children's Songs
Children's Song No.
Addendum For Violin, Cello And Piano
Chick Corea piano
Fred Sherry cello
Recorded July 1983
More personal, but equally wonderful, is Chick Corea's hip,
Bartok-inspired riff on the Groupe des six, modernism and pan-American
swing in the reissue of the 1983 release, aptly entitled, Children's
Songs. Choreographers will no doubt be all over Mr. Corea's scores
like a rash
Antoine du Rocher
BOOK TIP: chosen by the editors as being of interest
to Culturekiosque readers.
DownBeat: The Great Jazz Interviews (A 75th
Frank Alkyer and Enright
Paperback: 352 pages
Hal Leonard; 75th edition
Related Culturekiosque Archives
Chick Corea: The
Chameleon -- An Interview
Miles The Painter:
Interview with Miles Davis
Xenakis and Japan: The Inner Lives of