12 JUL 11 JONATHAN WIDRAN
I rarely interject personal anecdotes on the recordings I blog about here, but listening to the exhilarating, sweeping two disc retrospective The Definitive Chick Corea On Stretch And Concord -- and marveling at Don Heckman's whimsical yet sharp and detailed liner notes -- a few personal reflections come to mind. I was in the audience at the 2010 Grammy Awards when the legendary pianist won Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Five Peace Band Live, a group recording he did with John McLaughlin, Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta.
This album and its remarkable collaboration is represented on the current collection by "The Disguise" and the previously unreleased flamenco tinged explosion "La Fiesta." The Grammy represented his 15th win out of a whopping 51 nominations -- yet he trotted up to accept his award with excitement, gratitude and humility as if it were his first.
Last year at Playboy Jazz, as the leader of the Chick Corea Freedom Band, someone brought him a birthday cake onstage -- and now that he's turning 70 this week, I want to say I feel deeply honored to share a birthday with him. The Definitive Chick Corea represents some of his most compelling work over the last 30 years, beginning with the explosive opener "Tap Step," recorded in 1979. Though he was with other labels and ensembles during this period, these recordings cover the gamut of his inventiveness and kid-like excitement he gets working with new ensembles. An extensive list of greats he works with graces the back cover.
Heckman once got a quote from Corea that captures everything brilliantly: "Your tastes can change from day to day... But the whole point of being an artist with my groups has always been spirituality, art as spirit. That's our message."