A few months ago I came across a ticket stub for the Chick Corea concert I went to at Massey Hall in Toronto in 2008. The concert is burned into my memory. It's one of the top 3 concerts I have seen in my life.
Live, in concert, I’ve seen Duke Ellington, Arthur Rubenstein, Rostropovich, Horowitz, Liberace, Al Jarreau, Oscar Peterson, Chicago, Bobby McFerrin, Sammy Davis Jr., and on and on. An eclectic mix for sure. So why was Chick in the top 3?
First of all we had great seats… balcony, on the left, hanging over Chick Corea’s
shoulder. I went with my husband and my sister who are wonderful piano players and big Chick Corea fans. We were so close to him we could see his fingers and read the notes on the music. Notes on the music? I’ll explain.
At the start of the concert Chick Corea told us he only does one solo concert a year and we were the lucky ones in 2008. He went on to say it’s a real treat for him and he sat down and played an eclectic first set. No music, lots of free jazz (not usually my
favorite) and some familiar tunes. He would turn to the audience like we were in his
giant living room and chat with us between pieces. His free jazz was the best I’ve
heard, and his presence was riveting. Then it was intermission.
After intermission he walked onto the stage and said "huh, you're back", and grinned his big toothy grin. He knew the jazz he had been playing was avant-garde and 1/3 of the audience didn't return for the second half. We came back to see what was next and we were not disappointed. He said he was working on improvising some Scriabin Preludes and if we didn't mind (if we didn't mind!) he would like to play around with them tonight.
We could see the music and see which notes Scriabin had written and which notes
Chick decided to take flight with. It was chilling, mesmerizing, musical, technically
brilliant, emotional - it was a genius at work. He played and played and we clapped and cheered until a man walked on stage and whispered something into Chick Corea’s ear. He was the janitor and apparently there were union rules that prevented a concert from running past midnight. Midnight! Time had disappeared. Chick smiled and stood up, shrugged his shoulders and thanked us for being a part of his special evening.
This year we lost an icon in the world of jazz. I am forever grateful to have been in Massey Hall that March of 2008. Thank you, Chick Corea, for all you have given to the world and I hope you are singing along with the vibrations of the universe.
I want to leave you with some wonderful, basic advice that Chick provided to students and faculty at Berklee at a performance and Q+A on April 22nd, 1985. It's full of gems. I particularly like numbers 9 and 11.
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