Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Week With Chick Corea: Part 12 -- Leaving Cranwell

Table Of Contents
A Week With Chick Corea
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

Here's a memento from the activities of the first-ever Chick Corea Music Workshop. At last, some video evidence that I was actually there and it really happened!

Leaving Cranwell
We stayed up late on Thursday night after the photo session and reception, hanging out and chatting about the workshop and other things. A couple of the students snuck in to listen to Chick practicing in the ballroom in preparation for his upcoming gig with Gary Burton and the Harlem String Quartet that coming Saturday at the Detroit Jazz Festival, but I didn’t go listen because I didn’t want to wear out my welcome with Chick. I thought it best if I let him practice in relative peace and respect his privacy after all of his generosity toward us.

Below is a series of photos and an accidental video from the photo session on Thursday night. NOTE: I'll try to add more photos from the workshop at some point when I have more time.

Scroll down past the photos to read more about what happened on Friday and beyond.

Whoops, trying to take a picture while the phone is in video mode doesn't work so well.

Me and Chick Corea 
(click the link or picture to view the video)

Me and Bill Rooney

Me and Dan Muse

Me and Bernie Kirsh

Me and Antonio Sanchez

Me and John Patitucci

Me and Chick Corea

Joe Gold (left), Me (center), Fernando Giuffrida (right)

Elliot Casillas (far left), Fernando Giuffrida (2nd from left), Me (2nd from right), Mike Rihner (far right)

Me and Chick Corea

Me and Chick Corea

Friday, August 31, 2012
While loading my bags into my car and checking out of the resort, I found the painter in the hallway who saw me perform with Chick on Wednesday night. He had complimented me on my music so I gave him a copy of my CD. His name was Jody Lampro and it turns out he’s also a professional drummer and a bass player -- I think he’s been working with folk singer Arlo Guthrie among others. He since connected with me on Facebook and loves the CD. Also, the night before, I learned that one of the bartenders was also a fan and a musician so I gave him one of my CD’s the previous night too. It turns out that one of the Australian students Richard Coates saw both of them lurking outside the door to the ballroom one night during the workshop and let them sneak in. They fessed up during the break told Chick's staff they were resort employees and asked for permission to stay. They were both huge fans of Chick Corea. Jody was also big fan of John Patitucci and had recognized John walking around the resort earlier in the week and did a double-take when he saw him, recognizing his face from pictures on bass magazines over the years.

Fun story: Decided to grab lunch before hitting the road. Chick Corea and Bernie Kirsh randomly passed me at my table and stopped to say hi again before heading off to the Detroit Jazz Festival. Cool that they noticed me and recognized me out of context while I was oblivious to their presence. I mentioned to Chick that my sax player (John Nastos) would also be there performing with Chuck Israels (former bass player for pianist Bill Evans) the same day that Chick would be performing with Gary Burton, and Chick told me to have him stop and say hi in Detroit tomorrow. However, John didn’t meet Chick in Detroit because he said Chick got mobbed with people at the festival so he had no chance to try to meet him. Oh well. It was worth a shot.

Chuck Israels Orchestra - Show-Type Tune

Chuck Israels Orchestra - ‘Round Midnight
I drove back to Hartford, CT, checked in to the same smoky La Quinta Inn again (*cough*), then took the car back to the Budget rental car lot. Couldn’t figure out how to get a shuttle straight back to the motel, so I took the Budget shuttle to the airport, and then took the LazFly shuttle back to the La Quinta Inn. Grabbed dinner at Ruby Tuesday and went to bed before my early flight the next morning.
Coming Home
Ate breakfast, then took the LazFly shuttle from La Quinta Inn, Hartford, CT (*cough*) back to Bradley airport and was surprised to have the same exact driver that had brought me to the rental car lot the previous weekend. He recognized me and asked me all about the workshop. Gave him a copy of my CD. BDL → LAS → PDX Flew Southwest Airlines from Hartford, CT to Las Vegas, Nevada, changed planes, and then flew to Portland, Oregon. Fun to see my wife and kids waiting for me outside security after getting off the plane.
Back To Reality
It was almost surreal to go back to my day job on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day. It was a harsh return to reality sitting in my cubicle testing software for Dell, Inc. that day after spending the previous week living a dream with my childhood and adulthood musical hero and inspiration. Did it really happen? Was it all just a figment of my imagination? Still processing everything that occurred during that magical week away from the real world. Great to be back home with my family though. Now the challenge will be to put everything I learned into action and continue to improve as an artist and continue to create new art. That’s what Chick would want me to do. That’s the best way I can thank him for everything he did for us that week. That was the whole point and purpose of the workshop. So here goes. Onward and upward. And continue to put “Think For Yourself” ™ into practice. Funny story from my Brazilian friend and fellow workshop attendee Fernando Giuffrida who was fascinated with various English accents (eg. he loved imitating the Australian accents he heard during the workshop):
I was hanging out with a Bostonian friend last Friday [after the workshop] and just learned about a scientific explanation for Chick's accent: no letters are wasted! If you take an "r" out of any word you put it back somewhere else, no matter how absurd it sounds. For example: "I was driving my cah and suddenly had an idear." I think guys from Boston don't even think they have an accent, other people do.
I received this in the mail the other day. A handwritten thank-you note from Chick Corea following the week long master workshop. Cool that he remembered my original pseudo-flamenco composition (Play Structure) that we played together. Still pinching myself. (Did that really happen?) By the way, I did get to see Antonio Sanchez again shortly after the workshop when he performed in Portland with the Pat Metheny Unity Band at the Aladdin Theater on Sept. 11, 2012. This made my day on the night of the Pat Metheny concert. Got the following text messages from trumpet player Farnell Newton right before the show:
Farnell: "Talking to Antonio [Sanchez] last night. He says he was digging your chart at the Chick [Corea] clinic! Ben Williams, Antonio and [Chris] Potter, we were all just at the bar talking and all! And I brought you up and he mentioned your song and complimenting the chart on how prepared and clean it was. Which made it clear for them to read."

Me: "Cool! He actually remembered me? How did you run into them?"

Farnell: "Ha ha of course. Mississippi studio. Ben Williams hit me up trying to find something to do and I told him to come see Brian Blade! So he brought the gang!"
P.S. Got to say 'hi' to Antonio again after the show waiting outside Pat Metheny's tour bus. He told me I should have contacted him on Facebook to get on the guest list and that I should make sure to do that next time he's in town. I didn't try doing that last night because I don't want to wear out my welcome, but now that he told me to do it, I guess I'll have to take him up on it.   Here’s a video clip from a Pat Metheny Unity Band show:
Here’s a short survey that Chick Corea Productions sent out to us after the workshop was over.
Chick Corea Music Camp
Aug 27 > 30, 2012
Survey for Workshop attendees
Question:   How did you enjoy the 4 days of workshops with Chick and the trio? What were some highlights?     My answer:  It was the most fascinating experience of my entire life. Loved every minute of it. Some highlights were getting to meet and learn from Chick, John, and Antonio as well as meeting Chick's amazing crew -- Bill Rooney, Dan Muse, and Bernie Kirsch. Seeing Chick demonstrate his two handed 10 drummers 88 drums concept to the blind attendee (Scott Erichsen) was fascinating since he'd never known about using two hands because he'd never seen Chick's hands. It was very enlightening and refreshing to experience Chick's non-academic approach to music -- no need to put a technical label on each sound or scale, with the emphasis being "think for yourself" and using sound, rhythm, harmony, melody, and space to create an effect on the listener in order to communicate with other musicians and the audience. Having Chick be willing to share his approach to synthesizers such as the Moog using Neil Shankman's Moog Voyager and I loved the performance with the Moog. Having the chance to play music together with these three amazing musicians was also a highlight.   Question:   What did you hope to accomplish attending the Corea Camp? Did you accomplish these goals?   My answer:  My goals for the workshop were to learn more about Chick approach to music (performing, practicing, composing, band leading, etc.) in order to see what ideas I could try to apply to myself in order to grow as a musician and composer. I believe I accomplished these goals, though perhaps not in the way that I thought I might prior to the workshop. But I learned a ton and I think it was exactly the information I needed to hear. I took lots of careful handwritten notes and will go back through the notes and type them up for future reference.   Question:  What particular things did you learn that you believe you can now apply to improve your music making?   My answer:  I learned that communication is key and technical and theoretical knowledge is less important though you need technical mastery in order to communicate ideas without thinking about the technical execution of those ideas. I need to work methodically at improving my technical abilities to gain the freedom I need to communicate effortlessly and efficiently. I'm also inspired to improve my overall physical health to take care of my body which I use to play my instrument. I'm very inspired by Chick's amazing weight loss over the last few years, not to mention his prolific composing and recording output. I'm inspired to continue to write and perform music as often as possible and to be accepting of my initial ideas, to not worry about what others think, but to think for myself, while at the same time, treating others with respect and dignity. Chick's approach to treating others the way you want to be treated and his love for people and the audience shines through in all he does. Many other artists out there treat their audiences and fellow musicians and business partners poorly, but Chick is a joy to watch as he constantly models what it means to be a generous, warm, open person who truly wants to have a good relationship with everyone he encounters in life. So I'm inspired not only to be a better artist, but also a better human being in general.   Question:  Any suggestions for Chick and his workshop crew?   My answer:  It was a blast to perform briefly together with the trio though I'm sure there are ways to improve the experience through rehearsal and a chance to work on ways to improve the performance after getting feedback, etc. I wish there had been more time to perfect the performance for the recording -- a quick rehearsal or a second or third take and we all would have nailed our parts. Perhaps setting some boundaries up front in song selection, arranging/notation clarity, and a basic audition process or application process to filter out musicians below a certain level would help raise the bar at the performance level, though that may not be Chick's goal if he wants to keep things open to anyone at any level. Grouping students into different levels might be useful to then customize the appropriate types of activities and information for each set of varying abilities and levels of understanding.   Question:  Anything else you'd like to communicate to Chick?   My answer:  I really enjoyed watching Chick learning on the fly how to be a better teacher. I just want to express my complete gratitude for this very special and intimate opportunity to spend such quality time with Chick, a true master artist, perhaps the most prolific composer and band leader of the last fifty years or more. Thank you so much for the generosity toward us expressed by continuing to hold the workshop as planned in spite of the bad financial situation and the amazing integrity and ethical response to cover the costs out of your own pocket. We are forever in your debt in so many ways. My commitment to continuing to grow as an artist, composer, musician, communicator, and as a human being is the best way I can express my on-going thanks to Chick for all he has given us over the years and especially at this workshop. I've learned a lot about myself and how to relate to other people through this experience. I look forward to meeting again someday and eagerly await whatever art Chick will create in the months and years to come. Chick is my hero in so many ways and yet I love how there is absolutely no ego involved in his interactions with others. You have my utmost respect and I'm honored to have been a part of this grand experiment. Keep doing what you do and wish you all the best for many more years to come. Well done! -- Mike Prigodich

July 13, 2013:

Today I finally got to hear a recording of me playing my composition "Play Structure" with Chick Corea, John Patitucci, and Antonio Sanchez at the workshop last summer. I signed a legal document preventing me from sharing the recording with anyone since it is a rough mix of an unrehearsed first take. All I can say is that it was amazing to hear them sight-reading my piece and playing along with me expertly recorded and mixed by Bernie Kirsh. I got to play Chick's 9-foot Yamaha CFIIIS grand piano while Chick played on his Fender Rhodes Mark V (sampled on his Yamaha Motif XF). Hearing Chick solo and comp on my changes and interact with my playing was almost exactly how I imagined it would be. And hearing John reading treble clef on the fly to periodically play unison melody lines on his 6-string electric bass and listening to Antonio blend perfectly and catch all the kicks on the drums just looking at the lead sheet was astonishing. Those guys are the real deal. And it was cool to hear Chick say afterwards, "Wonderful. Beautiful. Really great. Wow, Mike. Great writing, man." Sometimes impossible dreams do come true!

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