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Staff Report

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND, 22 MARCH 2007—Ten-times Grammy-award winning jazz star Chick Corea is set to play in two solo piano concerts in New Zealand. The pianist, described as a master by his fans and peers, will perform at Auckland's Aotea Centre on 15 May 2007 and Wellington's Town Hall on 17 May 2007.

Corea is one of the major pioneers of fusion, and his far-ranging influence since the 1960s includes post-bop, Latin, free-form and avant-garde jazz, as well as classical. He is a rarity in his proficiency and distinctiveness on both piano and synthesizers, and is one of the first players to fully exploit the potential of electronic instruments.

Players influencing Corea include Mozart, Beethoven, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and, most of all, Bud Powell. He ranks with Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett as the most influential keyboardists of the modern era, extending beyond countless pianists to unexpected performers such as banjo fusion pioneer Bela Fleck and even rapper D.J. Jazzy Jeff (Will Smith's partner when the actor was known as the Fresh Prince).

Career highlights include collaborating with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, considered the first successful rock-fusion album, and forming the landmark 1970s fusion band Return To Forever. Spain, La Fiesta and Now He Sings Now He Sobs are among his many well-known compositions.

His trademark style is a colorful lyricism filled with dominant chords, chromatic and diminished scale runs, and rapid-fire phrasing. He's also renowned for unique electronic voicings, experimental techniques such as plucking the strings of his piano and a percussion-like approach to many pieces.

Born Armando Anthony Corea in Chelsea, Massachusetts on 12 June1941, he began studying piano at age four. Early on in his development, Horace Silver and Bud Powell were important piano influences while access to the music of Beethoven and Mozart inspired his compositional instincts. An interesting, little known fact is that Chick’s first major professional gig was with Cab Calloway, which came before early stints in Latin bands led by Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo (1962-63).

There followed important tenures with trumpeter Blue Mitchell (1964- 66), flutist Herbie Mann and saxophonist Stan Getz before Chick made his recording debut as a leader in 1966 with "Tones for Joan’s Bones" (which featured trumpeter Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist and flutist Joe Farrell, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joe Chambers). During these formative years, Chick also recorded sessions with Cal Tjader (1966's Soul Burst, on Verve), Stan Getz (1966's What The World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Bacharach, on Verve), Donald Byrd (1967'sCreeper, on Blue Note), and Dizzy Gillespie (1967's Live at the Village Vanguard, on Blue Note).

After accompanying Sarah Vaughan in 1967, Corea went into the studio in March of 1968 and recorded Now He Sings, Now He Sobs with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes. That trio album is now considered a jazz classic. In the fall of 1968, Chick replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis' band. In September of that year, he played Fender Rhodes electric piano on Miles' important and transitional recording Filles de Kilimanjaro, which pointed to a fresh new direction in jazz. Between 1968 and 1970, Corea also appeared on such groundbreaking Davis recordings as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live- Evil and Live at the Fillmore East. He is also a key player in Davis' electrified ensemble that appeared before 600,000 people on August 29, 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival in England (captured on Murray Lerner's excellent documentary, Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue).

Shortly after that historic concert, both Chick and bassist Dave Holland left Miles' group to form the cooperative avant-garde quartet Circle with drummer Barry Altschul and saxophonist Anthony Braxton. Though its tenure was short-lived, Circle recorded three adventurous albums, culminating in the arresting live double LP Paris-Concert (recorded on February 21, 1971 for the ECM label before Corea changed directions again. His excellent Piano Improvisations, Vol. 1 and 2, recorded over two days in April 1971 for ECM, was the first indication that solo piano performance would become fashionable.

Through the remainder of the '80s and into the early '90s, Corea returned to the fusion arena with a vengeance with his Elektric Band, featuring drummer Dave Weckl, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassist John Pattitucci and guitarist Frank Gambale. Together they recorded a string of five hard-hitting offerings for the GRP label that ranked with the best fusion of the latter half of the '80s, including 1986's Elektric Band, 1987's Light Years, 1988's excellent Eye of the Beholder, 1990's Inside Out and 1991's Beneath the Mask. To balance out his forays into electric music, Chick also formed his Akoustic Band, a highly interactive trio with Elektric Band members Pattitucci on upright bass and Weckl on drums.

They recorded 1989's Akoustic Band and 1990's Alive, both on GRP. The second edition of Chick's Elektric Band, featuring bassist Jimmy Earl, guitarist Mike Miller, drummer Gary Novak and original EB member Eric Marienthal on saxophone, released 1993's Paint the World on GRP. That same year, Chick also recorded a set of solo piano jazz standards, Expressions (GRP), which he dedicated to jazz piano legend Art Tatum.

By 1992, Corea had realized a lifelong goal in forming Stretch Records, a label committed to stretching musical boundaries and focusing more on freshness and creativity than on musical style. Among its early releases were projects by Bob Berg, John Patitucci, Eddie Gomez and Robben Ford. After Chick’s ten-year relationship with GRP ended in 1996, following the release of Time Warp, his swinging acoustic jazz quartet recording with saxophonist Bob Berg, drummer Gary Novak and Patitucci on upright bass, Stretch Records became a subsidiary of Concord Records and Corea decided to be part of Stretch's artist roster. His first release for his new label, which he had formed with manager Ron Moss, was 1997’s Remembering Bud Powell, an all-star outing that featured young talent like tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, trumpeter Wallace Roney, alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett and bassist Christian McBride along with jazz drumming legend Roy Haynes (who had performed on the bandstand beside Powell in the early ‘60s). Also in 1997, Chick released a recording with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra with Bobby McFerrin as conductor. Their second collaboration, entitled The Mozart Sessions (Sony Classical) followed on the heels of their first duet Grammy Award winning recording, 1991's Play (Blue Note). That same incredibly productive year (1977), Corea unveiled his acoustic sextet Origin (the band’s self-titled debut release was a live recording at the Blue Note club in New York) and also teamed up with old partner Gary Burton, rekindling their chemistry from the ‘70s on Native Sense–The New Duets, which earned Chick his ninth GRAMMY® Award.

15 May 2007: Aotea Centre, Auckland -  An Evening With Chick Corea

17 May 2007: Town Hall, Wellington - Chick Corea Live in Concert  at 8:00 pm

Related CK Archives

Jazz CD Review: The Passing of Good Time
"Electric Miles" Live in Montreux - 20 CDs  

Chick Corea: The Chameleon -- An Interview

Miles The Painter: Interview with Miles Davis

Christian McBride: Must Be Doing Something Right

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