Monday, October 8, 2012

A Week With Chick Corea: Part 10 -- Day 3 (cont.) -- Evening

Table Of Contents
A Week With Chick Corea: Part 10

Chick’s first ever 5-day Master Workshop with John Patitucci (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums) held at Cranwell Resort in Lenox, MA from August 27 - 31, 2012

Day 3 (cont.) -- Evening
After dinner, it was time for more student recordings with the trio. I came to dinner late because I had gone back to my room to feverishly practice for my upcoming performance with the trio. When I did arrive for dinner, I wolfed down my salad, but my entree came too late for me to eat it. The wait staff was nice and offered to hold it in the kitchen for me in a box with my name on it so I could eat it afterwards. I made my way to the ballroom and tried to calm my nerves.

More Student Recordings With The Trio
7:30pm, Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Student Recording #13
student: Evan James (piano)

  • with Chick Corea (rhodes), John Patitucci (electric bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums)
selected piece: Sunny (Bobby Hebb)
style: R&B / soft rock / pop

Evan James had traveled from Australia to attend the workshop. Evan has only been playing piano for few years. I haven’t really heard Chick play this style very much if at all, but it was fun to hear them jam on this tune.

Here’s a YouTube clip of Bobby Hebb performing Sunny with Ron Carter on bass from 1972:

Student Recording #14 
student: Mike Prigodich (piano) – that’s me
  • with Chick Corea (rhodes), John Patitucci (electric bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums)
selected piece: Play Structure (original) 
style: pseudo-flamenco – fast 3/4 or 6/8 feel  

I’m Mike Prigodich, the guy writing this blog. See my website for more information about me. I had traveled from Portland, Oregon to attend the workshop. While I’ve been playing piano since I was kid, I’m mostly self-taught though I’ve had a few lessons off and on over the years. I’ve been a huge fan of Chick and John Patitucci since high school, so this was a dream come true for me. I never imagined I would get a chance to play with these guys, let alone have them play one of my own compositions with me. I couldn’t believe I was actually going perform one tune live with Chick Corea, John Patitucci, and Antonio Sanchez in front of the workshop audience while Bernie Kirsh recorded and cameras filmed, let alone my very own composition.  

They sightread my challenging fusion/flamenco style original called Play Structure (me on Chick's 9 ft. Yamaha grand piano and Chick on his Yamaha Motif XF with his Rhodes Mark V patch). You can see the lead sheet for Play Structure on my website, along with all of my other charts. I named this piece Play Structure because it was a playful structure to improvise on and I happened to look outside in my backyard and saw the play structure that my kids play on. I probably should have picked an easier to get a good single take, but I knew Chick was a huge fan of Spanish flamenco music and I thought Chick, John, and Antonio would have a lot of fun with the rhythms in this piece. 

When I wrote this piece, I tried to model it after one of my favorite compositions by Chick called Little Flamenco that he recorded with his band Origin on the Change album. I think I did a pretty good job of imitating the style and spirit of that piece in my original without making it sound like I was simply copying it. It’s similar but different. Here’s the audio for Chick’s composition Little Flamenco so you can hear the vibe I was going for in my own composition.

Here’s a video of my band performing Play Structure from my album MPEG Live @ Jimmy Mak’s:

I talked through the chart with Chick, John, and Antonio. I asked Chick to help me establish the rhythm before the intro by starting with palmas (hand claps) with me since I know Chick likes to do that in a lot of his Spanish-flamenco-style pieces. Chick wanted to rehearse it slowly first. I had trouble and a couple false starts trying to play it as slow as Chick wanted to try it, but eventually got it with Antonio’s help. Then we tried it in-tempo. Chick missed the Coda at the end and kept misreading a Bb minor 7 chord as a major 7 (#11) or something like that at the top of the form every time we repeated the form which just sounded wrong since it clashed with what I was playing. Chick, John, and I all played solos. Chick apologized for missing the Coda and offered to try it again, but to save time, suggested that we start with my solo and then play the last head and take the Coda. Before we started playing again, Antonio asked if we could stretch out one section at letter ‘C’ because he thought the vamp would be great for a drum solo during the last head. So, we tried it, and Chick got the right chord at the top of the form, and we nailed the Coda. Sounded really tight. Lots of fun. They really enjoyed playing the chart and liked my writing, so that felt good. I was just sorry we didn't have more time to play the whole tune from start to finish to get a good recording in a single take from start to finish.  

I asked Fernando what my face looked like during this performance with Chick and the trio, and here’s what he said: “It was like everybody else's: a mixture of playing with the greatest musicians on Earth and walking the plank.”  

Anyway, we didn't get a single good take due to the time constraints, but it was all captured on video and audio. I will supposedly be getting a copy of the footage someday, but Bill Rooney, Chick's manager, told me that none of us would be allowed to post the video/audio on-line for the world to see since there were so many different playing levels among the group and all of the performances were unrehearsed sight-reading intended to just give us the experience of playing with these guys so we could attempt to apply the communication ideas presented without worrying so much about the technical execution. We'll be allowed to show the video to close friends and family, but not allowed to show the general public. There will probably be a promotional video made for the workshop to show what it was like and used to promote possible future workshops since Chick is now thinking he might want to try having one of these workshops somewhere in the world every year from now on.

Student Recording #15 
student: Mike Reinhauzens (guitar)
  • with Chick Corea (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums)
selected piece: All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern / Oscar Hammerstein II)  
style: straight-ahead swing (jazz standard)  

Mike Reinhauzens lives in Connecticut. He played this piece on guitar with the trio. This was a standard rendition of a jazz standard – playing the head, trading solos, etc. There were some minor problems with timing during the intro where Chick worked with Mike to try to tighten up the rhythm, but other than that things went pretty well.  

I can’t find a clip of Chick playing All The Things You Are, but here’s a clip of Pat Metheny and Brad Meldau performing it as a duo:

Student Recording #16 
student: Jon Krosnick (drums)
  • with Chick Corea (piano/rhodes), John Patitucci (bass)
selected piece: Got A Match (Chick Corea) 
style: bebop / fusion  

Jon Krosnick is a professor at Stanford University specializing in social psychology, communications, and political science who also happens to play drums in a fusion band called Charged Particles (named after a Chick Corea Elektric Band song title by the same name on the Beneath The Mask album, I think). Jon also happens to know my bass player’s uncle, drummer Peter Erskine (my bass player is his nephew Damian Erskine), so it was fun to make that connection. Jon may know Damian too, but can’t remember for sure. Jon swapped out some cymbals and made some other adjustments to Antonio’s kit.  

Jon wanted to play the Chick Corea Elektric Band tune called “Got A Match” (from the very first Elektric Band album available for purchase on Chick’s website here), which is a fast bebop tune that Chick often plays using a strap-on keyboard (a.k.a. keytar) [the Yamaha KX5 was Chick’s keytar of choice] during live shows using a synth lead sound. And John Patitucci plays this tune on electric bass. But for some reason, Jon wanted to change things up and have them try it as an acoustic piece with Chick on piano and John on acoustic bass! John had never played it on upright bass before, but he was willing to try.  

Both Chick and John had some trouble remembering the unison lines. It was funny (and a bit of a relief!) to see that these guys forget how to play their signature tunes. It’s good to see these guys are actually human and have to practice like the rest of us to keep things under their fingers. Jon even wanted them to play some of the crazy unison lines on the recording but Chick and John laughed and said no way!  

Chick tried playing it on the acoustic piano first, but then asked if it would be OK if he switched to the Rhodes electric piano patch on the Yamaha Motif XS because it felt more comfortable to him. Chick had an easier time remembering how to play it once he switched to Rhodes – the feel of the keys and sound was closer to what he was used to hearing on this tune. Eventually Chick switched back to piano during John’s bass solo. Then Chick and Jon traded piano and drum solos for single chorus each a few times back and forth. Looked like Jon was having a lot of fun on Antonio’s kit.  

Here’s a YouTube video of the Chick Corea Elektric Band performing Got A Match live from the Live At Montreux DVD released in 2004 (which is an absolutely mind blowing DVD you must add to your collection if you don’t own it already!):

Just for fun, here’s another video of Got A Match, this time performed as a tribute by Fabio Valdemarin from Italy. It’s all done by one guy playing all the instruments! Is that insane or what?

Also for fun, here’s a video of the Chick Corea Elektric Band performing Charged Particles:

Trio Concert

9:00pm, Wednesday, August 29, 2012

After the student recordings were over, we were treated to what was to be the final trio concert of the workshop.  

Mystic Bridge (Chick Corea) 

Chick pulled out this tune and couldn’t remember if they had recorded it before. John thought they had. Fernando and I recognized the tune. It’s a beautiful tune (in 3/4 time if I remember correctly) with a sweet melody and gorgeous harmonies and chord changes. Fernando reminded the trio that they had recorded this tune before but the title was listed as “Mystic River” instead of “Mystic Bridge” on an album called Dr. Joe that was part of Chick’s “5 Trios” box set.  

Fernando and I both own this box set and this particular disc is the only released recording featuring Chick, John, and Antonio together. It’s one of my favorite albums. Unfortunately it’s out-of-print and hard to find now. Dan Muse mentioned that they may re-release it at some point. John did some beautiful bass playing on this rendition after talking things through and trying some different ideas in a couple spots.  

John Patitucci gave us this great advice when commenting on his approach afterwards: “Don’t get trapped just running [chord] changes bar-by-bar. Find a path through it.”  

Here is audio for Mystic Bridge / Mystic River from the Dr. Joe CD in the 5 Trios box set feature Chick John, and Antonio:

Mystic River by Chick Corea on Grooveshark 
Music Fires (Chick Corea) 
This was a brand new tune that Chick had recently written but never played before. It was more through-composed with specific written lines to play with both hands on the piano (and bass). One of Chick’s friends once said goodbye to Chick by saying, “Keep the music fires burning bright.” Chick thought that was an interesting phrase and idea so he used it in the title of this piece. It was a beautiful composition. I hope it gets recorded and released at some point.  
Trane’s Blues 
(this piece was written by John Coltrane or Miles Davis -- not sure who) Unless Chick wrote a new piece by the same name, this was not an original, but rather an old standard from the Miles Davis catalog. John thought they had played this piece on before on the Dr. Joe album but Antonio didn’t think so. Fernando looked up the track listing on the Dr. Joe album and confirmed that Antonio was right – it was not on the Dr. Joe album.  

Here’s a YouTube clip where you can hear some audio of the Miles Davis Quintet performing this piece:  

Matrix (Chick Corea) 
Right after Trane’s Blues was finished, Chick spontaneously started playing his classic tune Matrix from the Now He Sings, Now He Sobs trio album with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes. It was interesting to hear this rendition again since they’d just tried it a couple days earlier on Monday afternoon. But this time they all played it with a lot more confidence. It was as if they were finally warmed up and ready to play this tune and do it justice to make up for the shakier rendition earlier in the week. 
Here is audio of Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous, and Roy Haynes performing Matrix at Chick’s 60th birthday party at the Blue Note in New York City. NOTE: See the amazing DVD box set Rendezvous In New York and the double CD that was released from that incredible set of shows. 
Matrix - Now He Sings, Now He Sobs Trio by Chick Corea on Grooveshark


After the concert was over we broke for the evening. But people continued to hang out and talk for a while.

Ten Drummers

An Eye Opening Experience For A Blind Pianist

During the break, Chick sat down at the piano to demonstrate his two-handed ten drummers concept for Scott Erichsen, the blind pianist from Australia. It was utterly fascinating to watch this demonstration because Scott had never realized before that many of those scary licks that Chick plays were actually done with two hands instead of just one hand. Scott had thought that Chick played those lines with just his right hand or left hand alone. This was similar to my epiphany after seeing Chick perform live the very first time. You don’t realize how Chick does it by just listening to the audio without visually seeing him do it.  

Here’s a video clip from Chick Corea’s Keyboard Workshop VHS/DVD where Chick illustrates this Ten Drummers concept so you can see what I mean:  

First Takes
During another conversation during the break, Chick told us that most of his recordings are first takes. He rarely does additional takes because he finds that his best and freshest ideas come out on the first take and additional takes end up being less inspired and not as good.  

My Commentary  Be careful not to second guess yourself. Sometimes the imperfections make the best music.

Hearing Loss
Chick seems to have lost some hearing. Had trouble hearing some verbal instructions at times or would hear the wrong word. Chick half-joked at one point about how his hearing hasn’t been the same since the RTF IV tour (Return To Forever). I’m sure all the years of touring with loud volumes has taken a toll on his hearing. Plus, he’s 71 years old and a lot of people his age (and younger) have hearing loss, so it was no surprise.  

As an aside, former RTF guitarist Al Di Meola has suffered from tinnitus for many years and plays shows these days with no monitors, uses plexiglass shields around the drum kit, and puts his amps far away from wherever he is on stage. It is also the reason he stopped playing electric guitar for the most part though he recently started playing it a little bit again. He mostly plays acoustic guitar these days.  

Here’s Al Di Meola talking about tinnitus: 

The Freudian Slip
There were a couple of times during the workshop where Chick mixed up a couple of his old albums -- Tones For Joan’s Bones -and- The Leprechaun. Once when someone brought him a copy of The Leprechaun to sign, he showed it to someone and said it was Tones For Joan’s Bones. Another time he was talking about when he first started working with Bernie Kirsh and said the first album that Bernie worked on was Tones For Joan’s Bones in 1975. However, it was actually The Leprechaun that was the first album that Bernie worked on in 1975 (released in 1976). Tones For Joan’s Bones was actually released a decade earlier in 1966, long before Chick started working with Bernie. 
  • See this link to learn more about Tones For Joan’s Bones. 
  • See this link to learn more about The Leprechaun.
A Note About Bill Rooney
During one of the breaks I asked Bill Rooney how he became Chick’s manager. It turns out that Bill used to be a drummer and was a long time Return To Forever fan. He was also a corporate guy that came to a point in his career where he was able to make a career change and approached Chick to offer his services after Chick’s longtime former manager Ron Moss stopped managing Chick. Bill first worked as a consultant during Chick’s three-week long 60th birthday celebration at the Blue Note in New York City. NOTE: See the amazing DVD box set Rendezvous In New York and the double CD that was released from that incredible set of shows. Bill continued to consult with Chick for nine months or so before officially becoming his manager.  
I did a bit of Googling on Bill Rooney and found this information: It turns out that Bill Rooney used to be VP of Marketing and Investor Relations at a company called Digital Lightwave that makes optical network test equipment for telecommunication companies (international carriers), network equipment manufacturers, and enterprise customers. It was cool to see a successful technology executive transform himself into Chick Corea's manager with no prior artist management experience. It was also interesting to me since I have spent much of my career working in the IT industry (system administration, network engineering, software testing, quality assurance, etc.). Bill and I have somewhat similar technology backgrounds but also share a love of Chick’s music.

Next Up: Part 11 -- Day 4

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