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Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York

John Kelman By

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...one of the most important aspects...is realizing just how easily Corea adapts his evolved style into each musical situation, making each one of them different and, in their own way, special.
Chick Corea
Rendezvous in New York
Image Entertainment
ID1796IEDVD
2005

Legendary pianist Chick Corea sure knows how to throw a party. Most people, when they hit a milestone birthday like sixty, they go out for an extra special dinner or get together with some of their closest friends. But, of course, many of Corea's closest friends are musicians, and over a forty year career he's amassed an impressive group of them, spanning multiple generations. And, of course, he's also attracted a legion of fans that, through their support of a multifaceted career that's touched on a variety of musical contexts, have become an equally important part of his life.

So, when it came time to celebrate Corea's 60th birthday, rather than having a private affair Corea chose to park himself in New York City's Blue Note club for a three-week run. By bringing together many of the musical friends with whom he's collaborated in different projects over the years in a public venue, he was also able to share this confirmation of close amity with the audience that has, in many ways, facilitated his far-reaching musical pursuits.



A sampling of performances from his December, 2001 engagement at the Blue Note was released as a two-CD set, Rendezvous in New York (Stretch, 2003). But in many ways, with each of the nine aggregations represented by but a single track, it was more enticement than fulfilling experience. It gave evidence of the scope of Corea's involvement in acoustic jazz—this celebration ignoring any of the electric projects he's led over the years—but was more a brief retrospective demonstrating his incredible diversity, whetting the appetite rather than sating it.

And so, nearly four years after the event, Corea has finally released the set that has been promised since the beginning. This version of Rendezvous in New York is a whopping ten- DVD set, with nine of the discs containing close to an hour each of the nine groups of friends he brought together for the occasion, the tenth being a 100-minute documentary—that received limited theatrical release last year—that serves as a retrospective look at Corea, with live performances from the Blue Note date and interviews with many of the musicians involved.

Some may wonder if ten DVDs of live Corea might be too much, but the truth is that this surprisingly reasonably- priced box set has something for everyone. One's tastes might lean more heavily to his Three Quartets band with saxophonist Michael Brecker, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Steve Gadd than, say, his duo with singer Bobby McFerrin, but one of the most important aspects of watching the entire set is realizing just how easily Corea adapts his evolved style into each musical situation, making each one of them different and, in their own way, special.

The set opens up with the McFerrin duo—in some ways the misstep of the box. There's no denying McFerrin's unique vocal abilities—often eschewing a more conventional singer's role and emulating all manner of instruments, sometimes more than one at a time. There's also no denying the unique chemistry that Corea shares with McFerrin. As much as there are certain structural foundations, one gets the sense that every tune they play is heading into uncharted territory—that even more than the audience, they are often surprised at where the music takes them.


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