Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, Paul Motian, and Sp. Guest John Scofield @ The Blue Note (05.12.10)
I was completely FREAKING OUT! 110% shaking like a leaf with excitement. My friend was standing next to me just kinda staring at me. It was physically noticeable. With a genuinely concerned look, she asks me if I am OK. Honestly, I might as well been on 100 Five-Hour Energy Shots and crack. I was on the verge of hyperventilating. That is how ridiculously excited I was.
Chick Corea took The Blue Note by storm for two weeks, from May 4-9 and May 11-16. Playing with a brand new project featuring Eddie Gomez on bass & Paul Motian on drums, Chick celebrated the lesser known works of Bill Evans, the project simply called Further Explorations of Bill Evans.
For those of you who need some schooling, Bill Evans was a famous, FAMOUS Jazz Pianist/Composer/Arranger who…
“influenced a generation of pianists including: Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John Taylor, Steve Kuhn, Don Friedman, Denny Zeitlin, Bobo Stenson, Michel Petrucciani and Keith Jarrett, as well as guitarists Lenny Breau, Ralph Towner and Pat Metheny.” ~Wikipedia~
In 1958, Bill Evans was a pianist in Miles Davis’ group. Can you imagine? I know Chick Corea and John Scofield certainly can. Evans influence ran so deep with Miles, his talent so respected, that he wrote the liner notes for Miles Davis’ classic Kind of Blues; the best selling jazz album of all time.
Tonight, I got my chance to see two of my biggest musical heroes celebrating one of their musical heroes. I found that exhilarating. Of the 12 days Chick Corea played at The Blue Note, I chose tonight specifically because John Scofield would be the special guest and I was geekin’ out. Tonight’s Line Up:
At 69 years old, Chick Corea is still going strong. Having become a fan of his music through my love of Fusion Jazz, Chick Corea has been on my radar for many, many years. Most of you should recall Return to Forever, with it’s classic lineup of Stanley Clarke on bass, Al Di Meola on Guitar and Lenny White on drums. If you haven’t heard of Return to Forever, you might want to stop reading and go check it out. Seriously, get away from this article and go listen to the music instead of reading about it. I don’t mind.
For weeks prior to his two week stint, Chick Corea was offering up free tickets to each of his shows through Twitter and via e-mail. I entered twice a day, every day allowed, but alas, it looked as if I was doomed to pay the $65 for a table or $40 to stand at the bar. Not a big fan of The Blue Note for these high prices but in this case, I would spend my savings account to see Chick and John play together in this intimate setting. I mean, it was one of the world’s most famous jazz clubs, how could I complain?!
The plan was to get there early and see if we could get a seat at the bar ($40) vs. getting a table ($65) plus a $5 minimum purchase (nothing there is under $7), plus tipping your waitress…you get my point. Unfortunately, we just missed snagging a seat by one person. We were the first ones standing. I took a trip upstairs, just figuring out they had restrooms and gift shop up there…and figuring out that this was where the Green Room was located. I just don’t go to The Blue Note that often for shows so this was a fun discovery. Especially when I saw John come out of the Green Room and throw a smile my way. People come from all over the world to stop in at The Blue Note, it’s gift shop stocked with all kinds of paraphernalia that I wanted like the piano ashtray or the hanging poster of Lionel Hampton that isn’t even for sale. When it does go on sale, my friend “E” and I will be fighting for it to the death. After my explorations upstairs, we stand around for another 45 minutes.
Already weary from a long day’s work, standing in line outside for 30 minutes and another hour and a half inside, it didn’t take long for my friend to talk me into upgrading to a table so we could sit. We had to wait until the rest of the reserved patrons were seated but we finally got a seat, in a decent spot for me to see Chick’s side view and John’s front view. I was happy but, and this is a big but, we were HORRIBLY crammed into our seats, I was practically on top of my neighbor and I am a small little lady. I felt like a sardine and my back was to the stage the way I was seated. I turned and was grateful that I WAS a small human being and manipulated my way around to see the stage. It is also about this time that I said screw the money and I made the MOST out of the awkward situation. I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and a scrumptious Flat Bread Salad with Grilled Chicken. So much for the $40 budget, I think I walked out with a $130 bill that night…so worth every penny.
The stage was set with Chick’s grand piano to the left, Eddie’s stand up bass in front of that, Paul’s drum kit raged the middle of the stage and to the right of the stage stood John Scofield‘s stool and music stand. The scene was set and everyone was waiting. When they came onto the stage the venue erupted in applause. I scanned the room looking for someone younger then me and my friend. I was hard-pressed and it made me weary. I wished there were more young people who are willing to learn from a real musician instead of what was on their radio stations and MTV…barf music. The set list that night was kind of hard for me, I picked up on 5 out of the 8 songs. It was hard to tell where one ended and another began. Luckily Chick’s website had the set list:
Stella By Starlight
Little Rootie Tootie
My Foolish Heart
Someday My Prince Will Come
Diane, a song by Erno Rapee and Lew Pollack, was fast and playful. A great opener, a great song to show case their talent immediately. There was playfulness between John and Chick right off the bat. John breaks into his first solo of the night. What do you think it sounded like? It was crisp and fast and he was up off the stool as if the music had lifted him right out! This first song was easily 10 minutes, so long and lovely. They each took their turn down the line soloing. Chick was second and being that Erno Rapee was a virtuoso pianist, this song was written for Chick to rage it. Then it was Eddie’s turn and then it got quiet. Chick starts the twinkling on the keys…playing scales. I can see his fingers with his head lowered and slowly Paul sneaks back in with the beat. John gets up and out of his seat again as he plants another lucrative solo on us. This was just the first song and I was satisfied. Great wine, great food, great company, GREAT music.
Stella By Starlight is a jazz standard, written by Victor Young, that I recognized immediately, but couldn’t grab the name when Chick gave it to us later. Chick started off plinking the keys. So very slow, Miles Davis’ version has horns but there would be no horns on stage tonight. With soft taps on the cymbals, Paul joins the songs. It all seemed so very My Fair Lady, very lounge-y. Eddie’s bass joined in with slow pulls of his bow here and there, so light and timid. Just a gorgeous song.
Chick stands up and introduces the band to the audience. There is massive applause for each member. “These are brand new Bill Evans songs composed a while ago,” Chick says. “Happy belated Mother’s Day. The first song was called Diane. We are doing song with ladies in the title….ladies tunes. We will be doing a few Thelonious tunes…” And the music continues…
Song #1 is beyond me. I had no clue what this song was and I still don’t. John’s face was contorted into a knot as he played. The main vein of the song was John on guitar with Chick coming in sporadically on keys. Chick stopped to take off his jacket, taking a turn to smile at the audience as his back was to half of us. My wine finally comes. Even better.
Pounding on the keys with Paul’s drum backing Chick, Little Rootie Tootie, a Thelonious Monk song, was next. A cute song that reminds me of Charlie Brown cartoons for some reason. The piano section is just exquisite. Chick was working up a sweat and dried off his key with the towel. But it didn’t end there. John picked up the melody and using his towel, Chick made strokes across the piano from one end to the other making the sounds he needs to banter with John. This was so cool and lasted for a good three minutes. My focus then went to Eddie on bass, plucking away as Chick inserts his two cents here and then abruptly ending. Monstrous applause.
My Foolish Heart, another jazz standard by Victor Young, was to follow. Mainly a solo piano piece, this was not to be Chick’s grand solo. Eddie Gomez starts off very, very slow, dragging his bow across his bass. With daunting pulls, he stood alone, his sound so deep and lovely. I remember having to focus very hard as the table full of European tourists were drunk and talking loudly. It is VERY hard for me to focus. I tried so hard. Luckily the manager came over and quieted them. It didn’t last long. Did these people not know who they were watching? I couldn’t believe their lack of manners. This was not the show to be having a conversation and I was NOT the neighbor to be having a conversation by. I only had to ask them once. I was livid for a hot minute and I quickly let the music sooth me. Heal my anger. It didn’t take more then a few notes, a sip of my wine and a bite of my lovely salad to be put back into my happy place. I fell in love with Eddie at this moment. It was simply magnificent.
Eddie was playing this technically classical jazzy song all by himself and he had hooked me into a dream world as I closed my eyes and let his sound take me over. There is something about how he played. I could have listened to it for hours. It was the most soothing part of the night. This was not jazz. This was classical goodness and with the bass! So much appreciation!! It went on for quite some time…and then John comes back in…
As I sit there listening, I realize that the songs have been mashed up as Disney’s Snow White’s Someday My Prince Will Come was teased amongst the songs. In my head I start singing:”A Dream That You Wish Will Come True”. I also feel as though Norah Jones‘ The Nearness of You was teased by John. I thought of my sister and wished she was there to hear this.
John Coltrane’s Bessie’s Blues brought us a new song, a new sound. Chick starts plunking the keys, pacing the song. Straight Jazz. Medium pulls on the bass strings, Eddie is very evident in this song. Just a yummy jazzy song, all instruments playing at their leisure…that whole organized chaos vibe going on. John pulled out a faster guitar here and during his solos, shredded his guitar with his face in a million different directions. Chick’s fingers were moving fast as lighting. John strums his guitar. These two were just killing it and this became my favorite song of the night. Eddie started playing so hard that you could hear his breathing over the music…his voice came out and he couldn’t help it. And with an oh-so-bluesy ending, more applause and a huge smile on Chick’s face 🙂
The final song was Bill Evans’ Peri’s Scope. I think that was the only Bill Evans song they performed to be honest unless that Song #1 is his. This is not something that held back my happiness one bit. The night had been glorious and it wasn’t even close to being over. A typical jazzy tune, John filling in for the horn section, it was lovely. The piano was playful and John and Chick banter with their instruments. So upbeat, light. Soft taps of the cymbals and paced pulls of the bass strings. They were having fun and we felt it.
I felt as if it were over as soon as it begun. I was in love with what I had seen and actually needed more. Right then. But there would be no encore and I had been surrounded by overly chatty people, the old gentleman behind me was drunk and HUMMED the entire set. These things didn’t matter! Within a few minutes I was up out of my chair and ready to go straight up meet these legends. And that is exactly what I did. To the Green Room…
Upon first meeting John, he asks me if I play guitar. He asks my girlfriend the same question. I believe he asks all the ladies this question as his follow up statement was “YIPPIE, I have girl fans.” LOL!!! The man was genuinely intrigued and a conversation began between the three of us that continued on for some time. I lost track of my entire life during that time. We spoke of the Montreal Jazz Festival, music, guitars, songs, NYC…to transcribe it would take forever and it’s times like these that I don’t need to write down for I will never forget these moments…
Upon meeting Chick, he wasn’t as excited but wasn’t fan-blocking me or anything either haha. We talked about the set, this is the point we discussed song titles and I missed a few as I lost my mind a little during this meeting as well. There are some artists where I can talk to them like they are family but there are others I can’t even look in the eyes for fear I might explode or turn to stone. Yeah, it’s like that. Just so much love for their music, I almost can’t speak to them cause, really, want me to be brutally honest?? The person is so different from the music and I am terrified of changing my relationship with the music. I don’t generally like to have big sit downs with artists I like. But when I do, I PRAY they are as genuine as their music.
In this case, Chick and John were lovely people, Eddie and Paul included, even though I barely spoke three words to them having the attention of Chick for a few minutes and John for a few minutes…that was good enough for me. My friend and I raged the Green Room area for a bit meeting Chick’s wife, who was covered in what I referred to as “glitter.” She corrected me and said, “Fairy Dust.” She was a kindred spirit for sure. After about 30 minutes of straight chillen, my girlfriend and I left The Blue Note completely speechless. As we walked down the street, neither of us talked but I knew exactly what she was thinking: HOLY SHIT!! THAT – JUST – HAPPENED!!!