Live review

Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band at the Philharmonie in Munich

Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band
(Philharmonie, Munich. 20 July 2019. Review by Ralf Dombrowski*)

The Spanish heart can be proud – in many different ways. It can be modestly proud as is the case with Niño Josele, a guitarist fully versed in the tradition of flamenco guitar, yet who distances himself from it and goes beyond it with his precise and rapid salvos with precision, harmonic invention and clever choices of musical ornamentation. Or it can be ritualistically proud, as with the dancer Nino de Los Reyes. He makes expansive gestures and his nimble feet doing tap-steps become a highly effective percussion instrument. Or it can be both proud and vain, as is the case of the saxophonist and flautist Jorge Pardo – he is the only member of the band who would rather be listening to himself than to the others.

Nino Josele and Chick Corea. (Photo © Ralf Dombrowski)

But above all it can be proud of a deep and long-standing enthusiasm that has led Chick Corea, from as early the 1970s onwards, not only to explore the world of Latin rhythms from the perspective of a jazz musician, but also to become immersed in exploring their origins in Spanish musical culture.

In the years since then, this passion has been very much part of his artistic identity and has led him, at the age of 78 years of age, and with unlimited appetite and vitality, to take the lead of a nine-piece ensemble and to tour it around the world. The result is one of the most coherent and effective bands that he has had for a long time.

This “Spanish Heart” programme, performed to an enthusiastic and willing audience in the Munich Philharmonie, succeeded in combining complex arrangements with improvisations that were easy to follow, individual virtuosity that was deftly controlled and a sense of fun that we could really empathize with.

Josele and Corea with trumpeter Michael Rodriguez. (Photo © Ralf Dombrowski)

The group‘s energy is impressive, and at the core of it is Corea’s deep-seated imperative to communicate. The way that he plays to his fellow band members clearly signals a wish to be challenged by them, both as a soloist and as the writer of arrangements which can sometimes be fiendishly, hair-raisingly intricate.

And his team has the skill and the confidence to keep the upper hand with ease in this battle between intellect and passion, rising up with total conviction to the ecstatic peak of a great sustained intensity-build in the finale of Paco de Lucia’s Zyryab.

And incidentally, the sound in the Philharmonie, often very poor, was transparently clear, near-perfect even, despite there being nylon string guitars, and a rhythm section, and a three-piece horn section and whole armoury of percussion. There is so much that can be done if you really want to!

This is a translation by Sebastian of the review by Ralf Dombrowski published in the Munich broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung

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