A whirlwind week of activity at one of the most prestigious venues in the world — New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center — culminated in three nights dedicated to Chick and his music. Chick is the only living artist to have an entire week dedicated to him for a week-long festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center in this manner (other artists are John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker — not bad company). On May 16, 17 and 18, Chick joined Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, in a reprise of their highly acclaimed collaborations in 2011, at the spacious 1,100-seat Rose Hall (which Wynton has dubbed “The House of Swing”) while various other artists paid tribute to Chick at two other venues in the Jazz at Lincoln Center facility.
The Rose Hall shows featured arrangements of Chick’s classic compositions written by Wynton and other members of what Chick calls “the greatest big band on the planet,” along with the premiere of a new Chick opus titled “From Forever.” Chick’s wife, Gayle Moran Corea, brought down the house each night with her beautiful vocal rendition of Chick’s “You’re Everything,” from the landmark 1972 recording, Light as a Feather.
In addition to the concerts with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chick was asked to curate the music of the other venues in the building that were also dedicated to celebrating Chick’s music. Chick invited some of the most innovative musicians on the scene to participate:
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
For a solid week, Chick packed the intimate Dizzy’s with a gallery of young titans cutting across the jazz landscape, from the adventurous Cuban pianist-composer Elio Villafranca (performing with vibist Joe Lock, bassist Charnett Moffett, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, drummer Richie Barshay and vocalist Magos Herrera) to the Puerto Rican powerhouse pianist-composer Edsel Gomez’ with his Cubist Music Band (featuring clarinetist Don Byron, tenor saxophonist Craig Handy, alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, bassist Stefan Livestro and drummer Bruce Cox). The veteran pianist Marcus Roberts, in a gorgeous solo showcase, shared a bill with Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, whose trio dug deep on Corea favorites like “500 Miles High.” Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective capped the whole festival on Sunday evening with an explosion of cross-cultural rhythmic invention.
The Allen Room
In the 467-seat Allen Room, Chick presented two of his youngest discoveries: Beka Gochiashvili and Gadi Lehavi. Both pianists were born in 1996, and both possesses truly heart-stopping talent at the keyboard. Beka, from Tbilisi, Georgia, lit the room on fire with passionate readings of Chick standards while Gadi, from Israel, drew them in with graceful and fiery takes of deep Corea cuts like “Samba Yantra.” For this showcase, Chick hand-picked a band that they deserve: the masterful Ravi Coltrane on saxophones, Wallace Roney, commanding as always on trumpet, the unstoppable John Patitucci on bass and young gun Marcus Gilmore in the drum chair. To close the second night, Chick himself hopped onstage for a full-band take on “Matrix.”
All shows in all venues were sell-outs! And as if that wasn’t enough, the entire week was featured as Chick Corea Radio on Jazz Sirius XM! Chick DJ’d the show along with jazz luminaries Christian McBride, Gary Burton, Marcus Miller and Lenny White. Every performance of Chick’s with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was webcast live internationally with a multi-camera HD video shoot. The viewership broke all records for prior events!
After a weekend of playing for several thousand people who gathered at St. John’s Cathedral in New York City at Dave Brubeck’s family tribute service for the late, great piano player, and performing a solo piano concert in Madison, CT the night before, Chick begins rehearsals with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Members of the JLCO, including Wynton, wrote big-band arrangements of Chick’s tunes. And Chick premiered a new composition of his, newly written for the MIT Jazz Ensemble, titled “From Forever.”
More rehearsals with the big band. Also, Edsel Gomez and his Cubist Music appear in Dizzy’s club. Edsel writes a song called “Spanish Cubes” in honor of Chick. The music is amazing.
Rehearsal on stage at Rose Hall, followed by the first performance of Chick with Wynton and the J@LCO. Also, the fantastic Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca plays Dizzy’s and surprises Chick by playing an arrangement of Chick’s Grammy-winning “Hymn to Andromeda.”
Another Rose Hall Performance by Chick and the J@LCO. Beka and Gadi perform in the Allen Room and Chick is interviewed by Wynton Marsalis for CBS’ 60 Minutes (to be broadcast in the fall)! At an after-party in Harlem following the 12 concert at the Apollo Theater, Chick and Gayle sit with Quincy Jones (too many Grammys at that table to count!).
Chick and Gayle perform in Rose Hall, Beka and Gadi perform in the Allen Room (Chick sits in), Alfredo Rodriquez and Marcus Roberts perform in Dizzy’s.
The last event of the festival was a stunning performance by Henry Cole and the Afro-beat collective. Henry brought several musicians in from his home country of Puerto Rico to specially honor Chick. The music was unbelievable.
And on Chick’s first “day off” after the whirlwind week, he attended a recording session with one of the world’s greatest classical violinists, Joshua Bell. Chick wrote an arrangement of the traditional song “Greensleeves,” which they recorded together. I’ve got to say, it’s the hippest version in history. Look for the CD to come out before the holidays.The events reached hundreds of thousands of people via the live shows, radio broadcasts and webcasts. Millions more will see Wynton interview Chick when the 60 Minutes piece airs.
Numerous celebrities, famous musicians, the Queen of Qatar and even a man running for the President of the country of Columbia attended. There were volumes of positive major press coverage also.
Truly one of the great weeks of music.