Vail music: Chick Corea’s ‘out to do anything’ |

Vail music: Chick Corea’s ‘out to do anything’

Cassie Pence
Daily correspondent
Special to the Vail DailyVail music: If you haven't heard of Chick Corea, you're sure to have heard of some of his friends, like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Bela Fleck and Gary Burton. Corea plays the Vilar Center tonight.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Jazz pianist Chick Corea promises everything and nothing at his upcoming show at the Vilar Center Saturday.

“It kind of blows it for me when I start talking about what I am going to do. I could tell you what I’m not going to do or what I might do, but that blows it for me, too,” Corea says, clearly smiling through the phone. “Tell them that Chick is out do anything … though that might scare them off.”

“Out to do anything” is a pretty good descriptor for Corea. An accomplished jazz pianist and composer whose career spans four decades and many Grammy awards, Corea is best known for his exploration and adventurous creativity. From acoustic and electric jazz to avant-garde and full-orchestra classical, there’s not a genre of music that Corea hasn’t played or influenced in some way.

“It’s all based around my love to improvise,” Corea says. “I play the standards, go off on a tangent and don’t come back for 29 minutes.”

Through the years, Corea has managed to avoid falling into a pigeonhole. Part of it is because Corea is always embarking on a new project, collaborating with old friends and new musicians alike. He’s forever growing, changing and evolving – and Corea likes it that way. It’s what stimulates him.

To give you an idea of how epic Corea’s musical journey has been so far, here’s a brief musical timeline. If you haven’t heard of Corea, you’re sure to have heard of some of his friends, like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Bela Fleck and Gary Burton. Here’s how Corea fits in to the jazz greats family tree.

In the ’60s, Corea accompanied singer Sarah Vaughan. He recorded “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” one of his most famous and celebrated albums, with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes, his mentor and personal hero. In the fall of 1968, Chick replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ band with Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. This is about the time he experimented with electric piano, playing on Miles’ transitional recording “Filles de Kilimanjaro,” helping to push jazz in a fresh direction. Following, Corea recorded four more albums with Miles Davis.

In the ’70s, Corea moved on to avant-garde, fusing many musical styles together. It’s during this time when Corea, and his band Return to Forever, recorded “Light as a Feather,” a collection of Brazilian-flavored jazz tunes including Corea’s best-known composition, “Spain.”

From here, Corea, with the addition of guitarist Al Di Meola, transformed Return to Forever into a jazz-rock band, opening up the jazz world to rock fans. Solo albums followed this period, and after Return to Forever disbanded, Corea teamed up with Herbie Hancock for a tour playing duets exclusively on acoustic pianos.

Solo projects continued, as well as a decade with new collaborators, which included Chaka Khan. He recorded more electric with his Elektric Band in the ’80s, as well as with the Akoustic Band to balance his creations.

In the ’90s, Corea took his “out for anything” attitude and formed Stretch Records, a label with absolutely no boundaries.

In the 2000s, Corea bridged jazz and classical, partnering with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to record “Corea Concerto.” And then he reunited with his high energy Elektric Band for a tour and subsequent recording based on L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction novel “To the Stars.”

In 2006, he returned to classical with a commissioned “Piano Concerto #2” for Mozart’s 250th birthday anniversary. He performed the piece with the Bavarian Chamber Orchestra and toured throughout Europe with the group.

Also in the 2000s, Corea recorded with banjo maestro Bela Fleck and also recorded with reggae singer Bobby McFerrin. In 2007, Corea returned to his roots to record “The New Crystal Silence” with longtime partner Gary Burton, the vibraphone virtuoso.

2008 marked a return to musical fusion when Corea reunited with the classic Return to Forever lineup and did a world tour. Also in 2008, Corea formed The Five Peace Band with John McLaughlin, who played guitar with Miles Davis.

On this current tour, which begins March 3 in London, and continues, albeit sporadically, until 2011, Corea again finds himself with an eclectic mix of good company. He’ll play duets and trios with longtime friends, introduce the new Freedom Band and even play a series of dates in Italy with Italian pianist Stefano Bollani, who has also played the Vilar Center.

“Each project has its own story. They’re all friends for sure, usually the good musicians I work with are, but each collaboration has a different story,” Corea says.

It’s rare that Corea plays a show by himself, but at the Vilar Center, audience members will hear just Corea solo on piano.

“I like to solo because it’s the one band that I never have to prepare for. There’s no preparation for solos,” Corea says. “I like to improvise and try things off the top of my head, play new ideas, try new stuff. See what the audience is into and how it feels in the room. I like that kind of atmosphere.”

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