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Interviews

Chick Corea: Creative Giant

By Published: May 16, 2011
AAJ: Of all the older musicians that you worked with through the years when you were a younger musician yourself, which one had a bigger impact on you?

CC: I really don't think I can measure that. I really try to answer honestly, and I can't answer that. I think different musicians have different kinds of effects on me, give me different things; they take different things from what my experience with them is, and I consider all of these things valuable in one way or another, because I accept them and because I take them, but they all have their kind of importance to me. Someone like Miles, of course, has a long-term, continual effect, because I was listening to Miles when for instance he was playing trumpet with Charlie Parker in 1949, my father had those recordings. And then I worked with him in 1968 through 1971—and then, even to this day, I still listen to Miles, and I listen to the recordings that he has done. So there's a lifetime association there, which is hard to deny.


Return to Forever IV, from left: Chick Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke
Frank Gambale (missing: Lenny White}


It's similar with the music of John Coltrane—although I didn't know John—and with Thelonious Monk. So, in some ways, the musicians that I stayed with my whole life tend to give me a continual inspiration: Monk is definitely one of them; and then Bud Powell; later on Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
. And then there's my contemporaries, like McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, who was and is always a big inspiration to me; Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
; I love Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
's playing. I am rich in this kind of way, because I have so much great inspiration from so many great artists.

AAJ: Do you ever wonder about any of the great musicians that you didn't get to meet or play with?

CC: Not really, more in the idea that some of the musicians back when I was young in New York I regret not having approached them to thank them or to say hello to them. Coltrane was one of them. I was around Coltrane a lot. I went to hear him at Birdland, Five Spot...I spent many nights in close proximity to Coltrane on the bandstand, and in between sets ,and I was always too shy to say hello; the same with Monk. So, in that way, there's a little bit of regret, but you know, the important thing is that their music is still with me.

AAJ: Can you tell me about writing "Spain"?

CC: That definitely came out of a long series of friendships and associations with Spanish-speaking people, starting with my Portuguese bandleader when I was in High School. He introduced me to Latin dance music, and I loved it immediately. The rhythm of it felt like home to me. But in the late sixties and early seventies I became familiar with flamenco for the first time as a particular kind of music. I didn't know too much about it, and I got very interested in flamenco through the music of Paco De Lucia
Paco De Lucia
Paco De Lucia
1947 - 2014
guitar
. This was becoming an influence to me. And also, at the time, in the late fifties, I also remember a Miles recording that still is one of my favorites, called Sketches of Spain (Columbia, 1960), with Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
. They did an arrangement of "Concierto de Aranjuez," of Rodrigo's beautiful concerto. So I was studying that second guitar concerto, that everyone knows, and based on that theme and that whole flavor, it grew on me, and I began to write and put this melody together. When I played it, I would always use Rodrigo's theme as an introduction. I played the theme as an introduction, and then I would go into my piece. To me it gathered everything Spanish, so I called it "Spain."

AAJ: What do you enjoy the most about music and about jazz?

CC: Oh wow, that's wild! You are going really wide on me now! [laughs] I just enjoy being an artist, and I enjoy finding and creating beauty in life; and the technical way I found to do that and that I practice doing that, is with music. The piano, the composition... And that's what I love to do. And I love all kinds of art and all kinds of creativity. And I chose jazz as a field because it's creative, it's wide, you can't pin it down, and it's a spirit of spontaneous creativity. I love to improvise, I love to play things that I feel, I like to always do something different, and it seems to fit in the world of jazz, more than anything else. So I get labeled that way, and that's fine with me.

AAJ: What would you tell to the newer generations of jazz musicians that are maybe struggling to find their own voice?

CC: Don't worry about struggling, first of all. Struggling is good. And next, all I can offer is for an artist and a musician to just follow his own heart, and to think for himself, and to keep on making sure that he is doing what he loves to do and learning the things that he wants to learn, and expressing the way that he wants to express himself, and being true to himself. And the more you do that, I think, the more you get a joy out of life; you get successes out of life. I don't think you get too much joy out of doing something only because someone else thinks you should do it, or that you feel you must do it because you are forced to do it. And it's very easy to fall into that. That's my advice, for a musician: to follow his own heart and think for himself.


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