Chick Corea Koerner Hall, Toronto ON, June 29
Published Jun 30, 201663 Grammy nominations, with 23 wins. That's the tally for the recordings of keyboardist/composer/bandleader Chick Corea, a true titan of jazz. His last win came in 2015, for Jazz Instrumental Album of the Year for Trilogy, featuring drummer Brian Blade and bassist Christian McBride, and this was the trio he brought to this Toronto Jazz Festival show. The attentive, capacity crowd was treated to a concert from three virtuosos at the top of their game, with the group's creative empathy on vivid display.
A very youthful looking 75-year-old Corea took to the stage with a beaming smile, playfully asking the audience to sing along in key while he tuned the piano. From there, he and his group launched into a gently melodic version of Kurt Weill's "This Is New," with Corea explaining later that "this was the first standard I ever recorded, back in 1965."
From there, Corea showed his stylistic eclecticism by mixing in material from such be-bop masters as Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk with strong originals, and an interpretation of a piece from Russian composer Scriabin.
"This was written in Moscow in 1895 and we've Scriabined it," noted Corea. He began it solo in a contemplative manner, but it then picked up the pace and took us on an intriguing journey.
Matching his mastery on piano was one of the best rhythm sections in jazz. McBride regularly drew cheers for his inventive solos, picking up the bow for a solo on the group's take on Duke Ellington classic "Sophisticated Lady." Blade is one of the few drummers whose solos come across as musically meaningful, not just masturbatory, and on Corea original "Fingerprints," a set highlight, he soloed using his bare hands.
Corea's own playing was as seemingly effortless as ever, even when he added such avant-garde touches as reaching inside the piano and plucking away to add texture to Powell's "Tempus Fugit." Contemporary jazz rarely gets better than this.