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Chick Corea's Spirit of Creativity

By Published: March 28, 2003

AAJ: It had to be something like being in a laboratory, almost, that band. Does it still stand out as one of the highlights?

CC: Miles approached that whole thing kind of like he was cooking up a spiritual brew. He was like a witch doctor. He brought all of these musicians together and he was brewing the pot. It wasn't like he was giving out a bunch of directions about what to do, because he wasn't. He'd bring in tunes, or he'd bring in the bare essentials or a line, or a vamp, or a groove or something or other. But he really wouldn't ever give much instruction to anyone about how to play. Therefore we all got the idea in that band that we were to play it as we heard it. It was a very free atmosphere. We were leading each other around and maybe trying to follow Miles along to see what direction he wanted to take things. But there was quite a bit of give-and-take in it as well. The rhythm section would set up things and set up atmospheres and grooves and different kind of directions that Miles would then embellish on and take somewhere. It reminded me of Miles' cooking. He was an excellent cook.

One of my takes on Miles' leadership qualities was just that. All of the great bands that he had, I think he pretty much had that kind of a tacit, unspoken policy about the band. Which was that everyone in the band would play freely. If you analyze the music of the Great Quintet with Herbie and Tony and Ron Carter and Wayne, it's that way. And earlier than that, with Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones and later on Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb, all of those musicians, you can hear their individuality come shining through on everything that they did.

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.

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