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Chick Corea

We saw Chick Corea at the O2 Academy last Tuesday, the final event of the Glasgow Jazz Festival. I'm not sure that they actually booked him, or if they just tagged his concert onto the festival, but it doesn't really matter. It was being advertised somewhat ambiguously as his only UK gig this year, when it was actually his only UK solo gig (he is playing with his group in London later in the year). This fact was only sometimes mentioned *g*.

It was an odd venue for a solo piano performance. It's an old cinema / theatre type place, usually used for large, loud concerts, and seats had been put out for this gig, using the downstairs only. It's a bit of an empty cavern inside, so it was a strange feel. Perhaps all the others venues were booked up. Still, the audience was no less appreciative! A very wide demographic of people.

When he came on, he didn't look at all like I expected, given his immaculately groomed picture in the jazz festival brochure and some of the album covers I've seen (My Spanish Heart! Actually, is that him on the cover? Perhaps it's not, I don't know. It could be Freddie Mercury...). He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a loose shirt, with his hair loose - looked like he'd just come from relaxing at home! His manner was very informal too, which immediately put everyone at ease. He just chatted to the audience - he has a very good stage presence and manner.

His theme for the night was to play pieces of music by pianist-composers whom he admires. He played only two of his own (three if you count the encore) - the first piece and the last piece of the concert. The first half was primarily jazz-based and, I think, very much the sort of thing people expected to hear.

The second half was almost entirely classically-based, with pieces by an early 20th century French composer, a late 1800s Russian composer, and a few harpsichord sonatas by Scarlatti. Of these, I really liked the French piece - the style of the era and his contemporaries was clearly audible. He finished with a few movements from a suite he wrote in the 1970s where each movement was a sketch of or inspired by a child. I was less taken by these, I have to admit.

His encore was very interesting though! He had the audience singing back phrases he played within the piece, and singing in five-part harmony - it was clearly an audience of musicians! The harmony singing was in tune, in pitch, and sounded pretty good, like a real choir! Normally when audiences try to sing even one note it's very fuzzy on pitch because half the folk have no musical ear!

A very good gig - I'm glad I went to see it. I'd like more to see him with his group sometime though - he was in Glasgow with them a few years ago, but I don't think I went to see them then.

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