Inside the Recording of Chick’s Concerto The Continents

Chick at the pianoChick’s in a Manhattan recording studio this week laying down The Continents: Concerto for Small Jazz Group and Chamber Orchestra.

Outside, New York is pushing towards 100 degrees, and inside the music hall, doubling a recording studio, the room is full of concentration—three dozen musical minds working in unison.

Conductor Steven Mercurio sits at the head of the orchestra, surrounded by 30 of New York’s top tier of classical musicians.

The jazz contingent—Marcus Gilmore on drums, Hans Glawischnig on bass, Tim Garland on sax and multiple winds—arrange themselves in a jungle of microphones, facing the orchestra. The crew built a makeshift sound cave around Marcus to capture the crisp swing of his drums.

Chick, as you might imagine, is right in the middle: leading the entire ensemble through every note. His solo piano evolves from delicate and lyrical to intense, sometimes in a single run. Then he casts a glance at the orchestra, gives a quick nod, and the full band surges to life.

Chick Corea with conductor Steven MercurioEven for you longtime Chick fans: this concerto like nothing you’ve ever heard in your life.

It’s one of his most ambitious feats as a composer—which is saying something, when you’re talking about 50 solid years of acclaimed composition and genre-busting.

The big question is where jazz and classical could possibly meet—and each of the concerto’s six movements, “Africa,” “Europe,” “Australia,” “America,” “Asia” and “Antarctica,” offers a unique answer. This is serious, big-hearted and purely thrilling music.

A release date is still being finalized, so check back soon—you’ll hear it here first. You’re going to want to mark your calendars for this one.

Chick Corea with engineer Bernie Kirsh

Chick Corea with drummer Marcus Gilmore

The orchestra recording Chick Corea's "The Continents"

Tim Garland, Chick Corea and conductor Steven Mercurio

Chick Corea during the recording of "The Continents"

Engineer Bernie Kirsh during the recording of "The Continents"

All photos by John Rogers.