Chick Corea, The Wolf Den, Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, CT- 5/19
As we waited among the noisy hubbub of the casino floor, a strange wave of expectation came over me. It was a buzz of sorts, partly from the mantra-like hum of the slot machines, partly from the especially high levels of oxygen in the air I was breathing, but more for the simple fact that I was waiting to see Chick Corea and the New Trio.
Yes, I did just see him during his residency at the Blue Note in New York City for his 60th birthday but this is Chickone of the most influential jazz musicians ever. His resume is a veritable cast of musical legends, playing with the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Gary Burton, and Brian Blade. His New Trio is a very stripped-down, minimalist jazz ensemble. They played an all-acoustic set, with the exception of an electric bass on the “Spain” encore, and really put on a great show.
Chick was supported by Avishai Cohen on upright bass and Jeff Ballard on the kit. Once the trio took the stage, I was surprised to see how young his band was. Avishai and Jeff look like two Berklee students next to Chick. But the second they started into the first bars of music, my impression changed, and I saw these two as mature, skilled musicians.
Throughout the one-hour set, Chick showcased his wonderful ivory-work, but not to the detraction of his support. Avishai got plenty of opportunities to strut his stuff on the upright, opting for the difficult solos way up on the neck, and Jeff Ballard definitely held his own on the drums, driving the rhythm section through the meandering solos of Chick.
The majority of the material played was from his new album, such as “Fingerprints,” a tune he likened to Davis’s “Footprints” in his introduction of it, and “Anna’s Tango,” which he dedicated to his mom. “Anna’s Tango” was an absolute masterpiece. His melodies were beautifully stretched over the framework of a tango rhythm, and each note was perfectly placed in the composition. With this piece, Corea demonstrated that he still has the compositional prowess that has put him up with jazz’s greats.
“Fingerprints” started off slowly, and built into a crescendo at about the five-minute mark. If I remember correctly, Ballard’s drum solo had him playing with his hands, Chick on a cowbell, and Avishai playing a shaker. Next Chick moved to the toms, and Ballard and he shared the kit for one of the more amazing drum solos I have seen in a while. Then it was back into the main melody, and the band didn’t miss a single beat. It was a well-written piece of music, played by musicians at the tops of their games.
For the encore, Chick picked “Spain.” However, it was a lot different from the last time I hear him play it. For one, it was only about 7 minutes long, and secondly, it was much more structured than when I saw it in New York. My father, who attended the show with me, pointed out that the first few minutes drew heavily from Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” I would have never realized this, but having done some research on the Web, found him to be dead-on.
Overall, while the show was far too short for my liking, I’m glad I attended. His current trio, however, is some of the most energetic, most innovative material he’s put out in several years. I highly recommend the new album, and if you can catch him along the route of his current tour, go see him. He won’t disappoint.