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Concert Review: Chick Corea Wowed Fans, Invited Louiz Banks on Stage at Mumbai Show

The American pianist delivered a huge load of fulfillment for his Indian followers this past weekend

Sunil Sampat Nov 06, 2018

Corea opened the show with his very well known composition, "500 Miles High." 

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There are stars, icons, legends, superstars, megastars and beyond. To varying degrees, all these categories of performers have a pull, a hold and a lasting impression on their followers. This phenomenon is almost magnetic in effect and the dynamics make a very interesting observation. We were to observe this occurrence last Saturday night and it was educational.

It was spectacular to see the influence that one man, one name has on a large following of fans and admirers; an influence that has mesmerized a generation of followers and listeners all over the world, who grew up with the ‘new’ sounds he created over 40 years ago.

Corea ended the evening with his hit song “Spain.”

This was noticeable at the solo piano recital of Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea this past weekend. As Corea arrived on the stage, unannounced and unintroduced, the entire audience rose to give him a long, standing ovation even before he sat at the piano! It seemed at that moment that the 600 strong audience at Mumbai’s Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir had already got their money’s worth; the musician who had captured their imagination and shaped their musical tastes four decades ago was there in their midst, unbelievably here in Mumbai!

The name of Corea at once conjures up a mental image of the band Return to Forever and the impact it had worldwide, on a generation suddenly exposed to the sounds of “fusion,” a brand new sound with a brand new concept.  The Mumbai audience on Saturday was reacting to their in-built nostalgia of that era. It was a case of extreme hero worship: Corea could do no wrong! The music he played was almost incidental.

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As a performer, half his battle was already won for Corea with his adoring fans. Let us also recount what he played! Despite the adulation, there were still a couple of hours of performance due from the modern icon.

He opened with his very well known composition “500 Miles High.” It is always going to be difficult to hold the attention of an audience for a couple of hours while playing a solo instrument. Corea had devised a method to get around this inherent obstacle. First, he combined, in medley the music of Mozart with Gershwin ( “Someone to Watch Over Me”),  Scalati (an Italian composer from the 17th century) with Bill Evans ( “Waltz for Debby”) and Chopin with Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Desifinado”). While there was not much in common in these pairings, it was a novel concept.

He also employed a couple of other interesting methods for holding the attention of the audience. Corea invited members of the crowd on stage to ‘model’ for him while he spontaneously composed short pieces of music they inspired. He also called listeners to share the piano with him for a duet. On one occasion it was renowned Mumbai-based pianist Louiz Banks who, urged by the audience, played a fine duet on “Basin Street Blues.” Banks made his mark alongside the maestro and in no way did he take second place, he was brilliant! Ironically that was the only piece played all evening from an African American composer (W.C.Handy). Jazz is, after all an African American art form.

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The evening dragged on for a bit while Corea played a large number of his originals ‘for children.’ However, he ended the evening with a rousing finale. The introduction to his most famous composition, “Spain,” is based on Joachim Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” a piece made famous to jazz listeners by Miles Davis in Sketches of Spain. Corea played a lengthy part of “Concierto” and eased into “Spain” where he invited the audience to sing the popular riffs from the song. They did a splendid job!  The attendees, who had decided even before the playing began that it would be a great concert left completely enraptured by the high note on which the show ended.

The audience is unlikely to forget the concert where they heard Corea live.

Davis was perhaps the only jazz personality that achieved super stardom along the lines of sports idols in the U.S. Perhaps it was also a phenomenon of the times in which he lived. Then there was the classy Ella Fitzgerald whom Duke Ellington had described as being “beyond category.” Corea might not have achieved those rarefied positions in the hierarchy, but for his legion of fans in Mumbai, he had delivered a huge load of fulfillment. His superstar status remained untarnished.

The Saturday audience is unlikely to forget the concert where they heard Corea ‘live.’ However, they might not remember the music they heard. They will also be grateful to event orgainzers Only Much Louder (OML) that brought Corea to India. That’s all there is to it.

All photos by Prashin Jagger.

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