Sunday, March 09, 2008


I'm sure that I must have heard jazz in the background of my childhood, likely performers like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as closely-associated music from Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Ray Charles. However, until my practice wife introduced me to the electric fusion of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the mid-1970's, I was not particularly conscious of the genre.

One of the groups that we then discovered was "Return to Forever," lead by keyboardist extraordinaire Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea. Best, yet, we had the chance to see him perform numerous times at the Summer Jazz Festivals at the Saratoga Performing Arts Centre.
After the wife and I went our separate ways, I had the opportunity to see Chick play a variety of duets and ensembles at different venues. One of his favorite companions was vibraphonist Gary Burton, who, he relates, met Chick at a jazz festival in Germany thirty-five years ago when the organizers asked for volunteers for a jam session, and they were the only two to agree!

Over the years, my opportunities to go out and see live music have declined; a new wife, a child, a mortgage, 'workin' for the man,' that sort of stuff. I've missed it. 2008 has seen an upturn in my listening fortunes, however; in January I took my daughter to see "Big Brother and the Holding Company," who gave the world Janis Joplin, and in February got out to see a regional reggae group, "Crucial Massive." I also saw an advertisement from the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie: coming on Friday March 7th: Chick Corea and Gary Burton!! My daughter is now of an age of reasonable self-sufficiency, so I had the fine opportunity to go on a date with my wife for an evening of jazz.

I must admit that I have no understanding for the specifics of music; I have somewhat of a "tin ear," and the language of this art, like higher mathematics, is beyond me. But I know what I like! Some music even translates itself into visual phenomenon for me, curves and arabesques, colours and syncopated flashes, and that enhances my enjoyment. And Chick and Gary are virtuosos! Beside which, the two are obviously close friends; they were not only playing music for their audience, they were playing with each other with their music. They joked, told snippets of stories, they percussed the piano together, and on the encore Chick and Gary both played the vibes together!

They performed selections from their original duet album "Crystal Silence," as well as from their new "More Crystal Silence," and "No Mystery." "Alegría in Hawaii" was a flamenco-based tune, and they shaped pieces around Alexander Scriabin's "Preludes 4 and 6." Jazz masters such as Bud Powell, Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debbie," and Thelonius Monk's "Sweet and Lovely" were source material for other numbers. Such masters of their instruments, such attention to their craft! Gary's mallets flew so fast as to strobe, Chick threw back his head, eyes shut, mouthing the rhythm and stomping his feet! The audience was entranced, and entirely appreciative. And, all too soon, it was over.

As we walked back to the car in a steady rain, my wife commented at how fine a performance it had been, but she wondered, "How did they get so old?" Well, we've all been around the sun thirty-five times since I first discovered them, dear! For the record, Chick Corea is 66.

But this I know with certainty: they made me happy. How refreshing! I've got to do this more often!

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