Only a handful of jazz musicians can draw thousands of fans, but Corea is one of them. The 76-year-old pianist’s trio plays eight sets Feb. 1-4 at Seattle’s 400-plus seat venue, Jazz Alley.
I clearly remember the first time I heard pianist Chick Corea. It was at the Jazz Workshop in Boston, in 1964, with trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s hard bop quintet.
“Wow, who’s that piano player?” I asked a fellow musician.
“You don’t know about Chick?” replied my know-it-all Brooklyn friend. “Everybody’s talking about Chick, man.”
Chick Corea Trio
7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 1-4, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $50.50 (206-441-9729 or jazzalley.com).
Indeed, and they haven’t stopped.
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Only a handful of jazz musicians can draw thousands of fans, but Corea is one of them. The 76-year-old pianist’s trio, including Carlitos del Puerto, bass, and Ignacio Berroa, drums, plays eight sets Feb. 1-4 at Seattle’s 400-plus seat venue, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley.
A 22-time Grammy winner and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, Corea came to national attention in the ’70s, during the electric jazz-rock fusion boom, but his trio here is acoustic.
“I’m looking forward to the simplicity of playing just the piano with no electronics,” said the Boston-bred musician.
Plugged or unplugged, Corea is prone to recording masterpieces, among them his 1973 fusion classic, “Light as a Feather,” 1968 acoustic trio set, “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” and 1973 duets with Gary Burton, “Crystal Silence,” three of the best jazz albums of all time. Never mind his pioneering work with Miles Davis, the avant-garde group Circle or modern classical compositions such as the recent, Aaron Copeland-like “The Continents.”
Corea modestly attributes his success, in part, to “having something you want to accomplish and then going on to accomplish it, despite all barriers. (You’ve) gotta be willing to win or lose though — like, be nonchalant about winning or losing — just love the game.”
Being intrepid is part of it, certainly. But his humble study of the masters is just as important. Corea has recorded tributes to Bud Powell — whose long, fluid lines, crisp attack and harmonic complexity are the root of Corea’s more modern style — but also to Bill Evans, whose lyricism, chord voicings and sense of interplay feed into the pianist’s approach.
But beyond influence, for Corea, the bottom line is rhythm, which should surprise no one who has clapped along with the flamenco beat of his most famous hit, “Spain.” Growing up, Corea played drums as well as piano and also worked as a young man with Latin jazz leaders Mongo Santamaria, Herbie Mann and Willie Bobo.
“In my music, rhythm is everything,” he says in the notes for an enchanting new album with drummer Steve Gadd, “Chinese Butterfly,” due next month. “If the music doesn’t have the right emotion and rhythm, it can’t live.”
Despite advancing age, Corea said most things in music come easier than ever to him. He keeps a breakneck schedule. Between January and April, he will have played in both St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Petersburg, Russia, with stops in between in New York; Berkeley, California; Honolulu; Seattle; and a stint on the Caribbean with Blue Note at Sea, his first jazz cruise.
“I just keep working things out — one at a time,” he said.