İstanbul is getting ready for a remarkable jazz duet. Pianist-composer Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton are carrying their long-lasting musical partnership onto the Cemal Reşit Rey (CRR) stage tomorrow night for their fans in İstanbul.
The two jazz greats will present songs from their standard tour repertoire in tomorrow’s concert as well as songs they particularly picked for İstanbul. Tomorrow’s CRR gig will also be recorded and released as an album for those who want to relive the concert again and again. Corea and Burton will release the CD after the ongoing tour wraps up in 2012.
“Of course there are some similar pieces at the concerts that we perform within the tour. For instance, in the US, we performed from Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk among the master pianists. In İstanbul we will perform from Bill Evans, which is different than the programs of the other cities. And apart from them, there will be, of course, pieces by me and Gary,” Corea told Today’s Zaman.
Beginning their collaboration in the early 1970s, the two musicians have gone down in jazz history with their jazz duet format that has also been crowned with five Grammy Awards. “I think it was the late ‘60s. I began to play with Getz’s group,” says Corea. “And we first met with Burton this way. Later on, we released our first album together, ‘Crystal Silence’.” This was in November 1972, and perhaps the two young musicians were not aware at the time that they were laying the foundations of one of the most remarkable traditions of modern jazz history.
“It was one of the most surprising albums of the 1970s,” says Corea. “Since then, we’ve been coming together at least two times a year in order to perform duets with piano and vibraphone as Corea and Burton, to share our musical accumulations and to share these accumulations with other people at concerts.”
The secret of the musical harmony between Corea and Burton seems to lie in the synergy created between each other. “I think the most significant aspect of Gary and me is that we possess qualities that nurture each other’s creativity,” explains Corea. “Of course, we don’t always perform together; we come together when we have a project to work on. There can be some times when we can’t come together for a long time, but when we do, we share everything that we have been gathering up in our minds. This process is really very pleasant. Sharing is one of the most important elements that reinforce our friendship and it is a process that refreshes us both as musicians.”
Born in Massachusetts in 1941, Corea began studying piano at the age of 4. Inspired mainly by classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart in his compositional instincts, Corea was also influenced by figures like Horace Silver and Bud Powell during the early years of his musical career.
“Powell undoubtedly has a great influence on me,” says Corea. “I would definitely love to have worked with him. And, of course, Bill Evans.”
Having his first major professional gig with Cab Calloway, Corea appeared on stage with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, flutist Herbie Mann and saxophonist Stan Getz in the 1960s before his first album as a leader in 1966 with “Tones For Joan’s Bones.” During these years, until the 1970s, Corea continued working with significant jazz figures of the time.
A turning point
However, it was towards the end of 1971 when Corea achieved great success as he formed his first incarnation of Return to Forever with Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, Joe Farrell on soprano sax and flute, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion and Moreira’s wife, Flore Purim, on vocals.
“Return to Forever was a turning point for me,” notes Corea, referring especially to when they added electric instruments to the project with electric guitarist Bill Connors. “It was one of the most surprising and best-selling albums of the 1970s. Rock music fans loved me because of this album. Not only because of them, but in many aspects it was a turning point for me in my musical career.”
This was a sort of beginning for Corea’s fusion movement, blending jazz, classical and electronic elements together, enriching his musical perspective day by day in the following years. Indeed, Corea’s innovative Return to Forever won a Grammy in 1973 for being the group with the best jazz instrumental performance. This was only the beginning for a string of Grammy wins for Corea, who has won a total of 16 Grammys to date. “Every award that I won turned into a source of motivation which encouraged and supported me and gave me hope for the next one,” indicates Corea. “You don’t work just to win awards, you do it because you want to and you love to do it but when you get an award as an outcome, you understand that you are on the right path. You feel even more excited for the next one.”
Tomorrow’s CRR concert will be Corea’s first İstanbul appearance with Burton in 13 years, but Corea is actually a frequent visitor in town, taking to the stage at the city’s numerous festivals. “I don’t know how many times I have visited İstanbul,” he says. “Your city has a very particular position and significance for me. First of all, it is fascinating. I feel this every time I come and it never loses anything from its charm. I never feel like a stranger and I have many friends here. They host me in their houses. I like spending time in İstanbul.”
Not only is visiting İstanbul a pleasure for Corea, so is performing before a Turkish audience. “The Turkish audience undoubtedly has a different place for me. I believe they have a very deep musical perception and I realize this every time I come here. I feel very excited about performing in İstanbul.”