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Chick Corea: 'He is music'


Chick Corea, "The Musician" (Concord/Stretch, 3-CDs plus Blu Ray Video)

The OMG jazz box of the season. And, without question, a genuinely historic milestone of jazz recording.

It all dates back to 2011 when Chick Corea celebrated his 70th birthday at New York City's Blue Note Jazz Club with a mind-boggling month-long event: Corea celebrating with 10 different bands of the finest jazz musicians alive playing the music of him and his friends. It took a month of 48 different performances, including 27 different musicians.

In his notes here, Robin G.D. Kelley says it hyperbolically but well: "He is music. He lives its history in the very epicenter of the art form: New York City." All celebrating clubgoers "squeezed into the historic Greenwich Village club" and "probably expected a long walk down memory lane." The result, he said, instead was that they delivered "48 exciting sets of original music for here and now."

Older compositions by Corea and friends, including classics like "Light as a Feather" abounded but hearing these musicians in electrifying celebration of musical brotherhood is priceless. His Return to Forever Band (Stanley Clarke and Lenny White) returns to play unplugged with guitarist Frank Gambole. Corea plays in a trio with Gary Peacock and Brian Blade and a "Five Peace Band" with John McLaughlin, Kenny Garrett, John Pattitucci and Blade. He performs duets with Bobby McFerrin, Herbie Hancock and Marcus Roberts and with Gary Burton and the Harlem String Quartet. He plays two classics of Miles Davis repertoire with Wallace Roney taking Miles' role, along with Gary Bartz on saxophone, with a rhythm section of Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette. Add a Flamenco Band, and a closer from the Elektric Band (Dave Weckl, Pattitucci, Gambale and Eric Marienthal) and you've got the answer to the question "what were some of the finest musicians in jazz doing in the spring of 2011?"

A film full of it is on a Blu-Ray called "Chick Corea: The Musician" and is replete with with rehearsals and a fulfilling backstage view of a musician who, in jazz, seems able to play anything and often does. And always gloriously. "One question I'm asked all the time is what do I like best -- trios or full bands or which musicians do I like best to work with? Do I like to play the piano more than the Rhodes (Electric piano)? The answer to any of those questions is the same really: It's all so less in importance to the art of creating and the art of collaborating with another musician."

You can trust an admiring critic who first heard Corea live decades ago when he played unbilled in a Pete LaRoca Quartet with saxophonist Dave Liebman. While his style has encompassed a huge teeming, eclectic jazz world, his creative joy in playing has been consistent for 50 years.

4 stars (out of four)

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