Wish the night had gone on forever!

(5 / 5)

Watching jazz pianist-keyboardist Chick Corea has always been on my bucket list. So I was hugely excited to hear of his performance in Mumbai on Saturday November 3.

The man is a legend, and many from our 1960s-born generation have grown up on his jazz-rock band Return To Forever during our early 20s. But there were two dampeners. The ticket rates were exorbitant – minus taxes, Rs 10,000 on ground floor, Rs 7,000 on first balcony and Rs 4,000 on second balcony. I almost ditched it.

Moreover, he was doing a solo piano set. So none of those impromptu interactions that go with jazz bands. Mumbai being Mumbai, the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir in Bandra was about 90 per cent full. But the Delhi show at the Siri Fort Auditorium the following day was cancelled, though a much smaller crowd saw him at the Piano Man Jazz Club.

My fears were set aside the moment Corea began playing. He’s a genius and his finger movements are like a graceful swan on a placid lake, a solitary walk in a forest. One hated to cough in the middle of his pieces.

Two hours with a 15-minute interval in between. The first half was filled with mash-ups chronicling the history of western classical, jazz, the Great American Songbook and Latin bossa nova.

We were ‘500 Miles High’, to quote one of his song titles, listening to him play a Mozart sonata followed by George Gershwin’s ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’. A sonata by Italian baroque composer Scarlatti with jazz pianist Bill Evans’ ‘Waltz For Debby’. A mazurka (a Polish dance form) by Chopin followed by Brazilian legend Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Desafinado’.

 

And it wasn’t just serious music all the way. Between tunes, he explained his choice with humorous anecdotes. His take on how people pronounce ‘sonata’ in Boston, and how his real name Armando Antonio Corea originated. His following of Indian philosophy, even though it was his first visit here.

Post-interval, he began with ‘Yellow Nimbus’, dedicated to the late flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. Then the showmanship came out. Corea invited two people at different points for a game called ‘musical portraits’. So he made them sit in front of him and created tunes based on their expressions.

Then he called two pianists to join him in succession to simultaneously play a tune on the same instrument. Louis Banks voluteered and they quickly created some magic. A Japanese lady was nervous as ever but one could sense Corea slowing down. He gracefully congratulated her saying she had the feel.

The next step involved excerpts from his 1984 album ‘Children’s Songs’. “I love kids and they remind of the times I was free and had no worries,” he said. For the encore, the crowd requested ‘Spain’, arguably his most famous tune. He joked, “But we are in India.” He said he would play a different version where the Bombay Choir would join.

The Bombay Choir turned out to be the audience. He played some notes and people sang back. What an experience. Wish the night had gone on forever.

Corea is the fourth great international pianist-keyboardist I have seen in Mumbai. Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock and George Duke had different styles. All were mesmerising in their own way. But the Corea show will be etched in memory, just like Zawinul’s at Rang Bhavan in 1997. Oh, I forgot the ticket rates. And yes, I also forgot to mention Corea has this energy at age 77.

Watching jazz pianist-keyboardist Chick Corea has always been on my bucket list. So I was hugely excited to hear of his performance in Mumbai on Saturday November 3.

The man is a legend, and many from our 1960s-born generation have grown up on his jazz-rock band Return To Forever during our early 20s. But there were two dampeners. The ticket rates were exorbitant – minus taxes, Rs 10,000 on ground floor, Rs 7,000 on first balcony and Rs 4,000 on second balcony. I almost ditched it.

Moreover, he was doing a solo piano set. So none of those impromptu interactions that go with jazz bands. Mumbai being Mumbai, the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir in Bandra was about 90 per cent full. But the Delhi show at the Siri Fort Auditorium the following day was cancelled, though a much smaller crowd saw him at the Piano Man Jazz Club.

My fears were set aside the moment Corea began playing. He’s a genius and his finger movements are like a graceful swan on a placid lake, a solitary walk in a forest. One hated to cough in the middle of his pieces.

Two hours with a 15-minute interval in between. The first half was filled with mash-ups chronicling the history of western classical, jazz, the Great American Songbook and Latin bossa nova.

We were ‘500 Miles High’, to quote one of his song titles, listening to him play a Mozart sonata followed by George Gershwin’s ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’. A sonata by Italian baroque composer Scarlatti with jazz pianist Bill Evans’ ‘Waltz For Debby’. A mazurka (a Polish dance form) by Chopin followed by Brazilian legend Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Desafinado’.

And it wasn’t just serious music all the way. Between tunes, he explained his choice with humorous anecdotes. His take on how people pronounce ‘sonata’ in Boston, and how his real name Armando Antonio Corea originated. His following of Indian philosophy, even though it was his first visit here.

Post-interval, he began with ‘Yellow Nimbus’, dedicated to the late flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. Then the showmanship came out. Corea invited two people at different points for a game called ‘musical portraits’. So he made them sit in front of him and created tunes based on their expressions.

Then he called two pianists to join him in succession to simultaneously play a tune on the same instrument. Louis Banks voluteered and they quickly created some magic. A Japanese lady was nervous as ever but one could sense Corea slowing down. He gracefully congratulated her saying she had the feel.

The next step involved excerpts from his 1984 album ‘Children’s Songs’. “I love kids and they remind of the times I was free and had no worries,” he said. For the encore, the crowd requested ‘Spain’, arguably his most famous tune. He joked, “But we are in India.” He said he would play a different version where the Bombay Choir would join.

The Bombay Choir turned out to be the audience. He played some notes and people sang back. What an experience. Wish the night had gone on forever.

Corea is the fourth great international pianist-keyboardist I have seen in Mumbai. Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock and George Duke had different styles. All were mesmerising in their own way. But the Corea show will be etched in memory, just like Zawinul’s at Rang Bhavan in 1997. Oh, I forgot the ticket rates. And yes, I also forgot to mention Corea has this energy at age 77.

Comments

comments

Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon (okay, doesn’t fit, but you get the drift), Naren, NK, Kusnur, Narender, Kaansen, Jahanpanna… however else many call him, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier. If ever there is an Ustad given for music writing, NK, would be among the first to receive one. Narendra Kusnur writes weekly on Xyngr. Don’t ask us when.