Chick Corea's Spirit of Creativity
AAJ: The spirit of the music you can hear in all those different eras. I think you can also hear it in your music. It seems to me that today, a lot of music is the same. It seems like it's still you and Wayne and Herbie, and Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette and Keith Jarrett, the people from those Miles bands, who are the ones now making the exciting music.
CC: There's something amongst the group you just listed that is what I grew up in and what I love and what I'll always be in, which is a spirit of freedom. A spirit of creative freedom and the willingness to actually do anything with music. If you analyze any of the musical careers of all of those guys that you've listed, you'll come up with an incredible eclecticness and an incredible breadth of investigation into different ways of making music. To me, that's the real fun and statement of the art of music. As far as whether music should have a groove or should not have a groove is all personal taste. It's hard to make any kind of judgment about musical styles because the style itself is not music, it's some kind of an arbitrary designation placed - also arbitrarily - on some area of music, which is arbitrarily selected.
It's an interesting subject though. Which way the music goes culturally is one thing to look at, and how individual musical tastes are involved in that is another look at it. Definitely that freedom spirit that I was talking about is much less prevalent in the music world today. One of the basic reasons for that is not anything to do with the potentials and musicality and creativity and desires of musicians and artists. That's a factor affected by the society itself and the culture around us and what is possible and not possible to achieve as a working musician in the world today. It's a cultural problem. It's a governmental problem. It's society's problem.
AAJ: When it comes to live music, electric versus acoustic, do you have a preference? Is it a feeling, deciding which way you're going to go? What plays into that?
CC: You can think about electric instruments and acoustic instruments as just tools of the trade. It's like whether you're writing a poem or a short story or a novel or a promo blurb or a report, different kinds of writings. Different kinds of techniques are needed. Different kinds of effects are produced by the use of these techniques. Same thing. Electric instruments and the sound of music is all surrounded in the subject of the style of music and the clothing that you put on a message. You can deliver a message of gentleness, for instance, with an acoustic piano solo. You can deliver a message of gentleness with a 100-piece symphony orchestra playing gently. Electric instruments have their use and they have an effect they create on the listener. That's how I use them.
I like them for certain effects. I'm bringing the Elektric Band back together again for touring and a recording, enjoying very much playing with the electric instruments and creating a certain sound that communicates a certain way to audiences.
AAJ: It doesn't bother you that some people might say, 'He's not playing jazz,' when you go electric and get a little funkier?
CC: That's a pretty simple subject. A critic is a critic. Anyone has the freedom to be critical about whatever they want to be critical about. Everyone is free to their own opinions. Art is a subject that is inundated with opinions. In fact, that's all it is about is opinions. If you think about the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is absolutely true, then what one considers art or beautiful or valid or pure or correct or whatever you want to call it, is pure opinion. The only problem is when a critic tries to place himself in some position of authority, which is just some marked up authority, and it starts to look like law, what he says. This is when it gets a little silly. That kind of thing stopped bothering me a long, long time ago. I think that the world is made up of a lot of people and they all think differently, and they're welcome to it.
AAJ: How about a musician like Wynton Marsalis, who has a certain status and the media seems to hang on what he says. He's on TV a lot. Does it bother you that he is a bit dogmatic about what he thinks is jazz?
CC: I have a personal policy to not ever enter an arena like that. It's negative. I have one opinion on Wynton Marsalis. He's one of the most incredible trumpet players of the century. And that's it. Cause that's true. He's an incredible musician. I heard something by him the other day, in fact I decided I wanted to get this piece. Gayle [his wife] and I were listening to it on the radio. It's a piece of classical music that sounds like "Flight of the Bumble Bee" but it's not. It's some incredibly technical piece, but so beautifully rendered. It sounds like it's done in one breath. It sounds like part of the piece is circular breathing. It put my hair up on the back of my neck, and we said, 'We've got to find out who that is.' And at the end the announcer said it was Wynton Marsalis. And I said 'Good on you, Wynton, man, that's incredible.' I stay out of that other stuff. All it leads to is more of that other stuff.