Review: Chick Corea Solo at the Barbican

Chick Corea. Barbican 19th May 2104
Photo Credit: Paul Wood

Chick Corea Solo Recital
(Barbican Hall, 19th May 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Chick Corea made the 1850-seater Barbican Hall feel last night like a much more intimate space than it actually is. Corea has been giving serious thought to interaction with audiences. For example, his band ‘The Vigil’ is called that because he wants to use the word in the sense of  “a precious communication line between artist and audience.” There can be no denying that these reflections are  bearing fruit.

Choices and variety abound in this programme. He allowed natural interruptions to take their course – welcoming latecomers, suggesting that the doors might even be left open. He welcomed  two guest improvisers including an impressive Nikki Yeoh (see set list below) onto the stage. He did change the vibe significantly towards the end, by bringing on saxophonist and regular colleague Tim Garland and the Egyptian percusionist Hossan Ramzy on the Egyptian tabla or darbuka (Ramzy explains all here), enjoyed a call-and-response ‘concerto’ with the audience, but it was Corea who held the stage from start to finish.

There is an evident awareness of the need for variety.  The programme clearly can be re-thought or re-planned along the way, and cope with the unexpected: he gave the warmest welcome to latecomers to the hall that it is possible to imagine, and even waited for them to get settled. He even, just for fun, played the audience an extract from a Bartok concerto on his iPhone.

As he said at the outset, he is comfortable in this groove. Corea is currently touring the world giving a long series of these solo recitals. He made the gleeful remark about the venture: “I get to practise every night.” The main narrative thread is the inspiration which he derives from other pianists. Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady (Ellington was introduced into the narrative in the first instance as a ‘humanitarian’, Bill Evans (Waltz for Debby)  and Monk (Work) figure prominently. .

What that linking theme got me  thinking about was how an artist given carte blanche then makes his choices out of an infinite set of possibilities, not just with repertoire, narrative, dramaturgy,but also with how the tune is addressed, or indeed avoided, how long the investigation of the tune is, and so on. Sophisticated Lady approached the theme particularly obliquely, Desafinado was terse, Waltz for Debby was a clever game with deliberately mis-remembered intervals. Corea also played a selections of the canon of twenty Children’s Songs. Some were welcomed and doted on, others were sent to their bedrooms in less than a minute.

This exercise in the art of variety and continuous choices was fascinating to watch. After nearly two hours of music he sent an audience away happy: it had been no mean feat.

Chick Corea. Barbican 19th May 2104
Photo Credit: Paul Wood

It Could Happen to You(Jimmy Van Heusen)
Desafinado (Jobim)
Sophisticated Lady (Ellington)
Walt for Debby (Bill Evans)
Work (Monk)
Pastime Paradise (Stevie Wonder)
Mazurka in A minor Op.17/4 (Chopin)


The Yellow Nimbus ( Corea ded. to Paco de Lucia)
Improvisation 1 – Guest: Ian
Improvisation 2 – Guest: Nikki Yeoh
Children’s Songs
Armando’s Rumba
Concerto with Audience

Categories: miscellaneous

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