It was about 10:30pm on January 21, 2011 and Chick Corea had just completed two sets with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in Rose Auditorium. I stood backstage as he congratulated Wynton Marsalis outside of the dressing room amidst the culminating fans waiting to snag a photo with either of the jazz legends. I took my camera out to try to sang a photo of the two shaking hands but it was to be my own hands that faced certain tremors, most likely from excitement. The performance had shaken me, rejuvenating my senses. As I sat first row center in the first set of balcony seats listening to brand new arrangements of “Amrando’s Rumba”, “Crystal Silence” and “Matrix”, some of my favorite Chick tunes, the talent on one single stage was nearly too much for me to handle. Chick can convey so much information [at times an overabundance] in any given solo, especially on his trio records, but with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra’s arrangements of his tunes, the constraints worked to his advantage. That being said, the band did stretch out. At one moment Walter Blanton Jr. began clapping a syncopated pattern during a Vincent Gardner solo. The front woodwinds listened and one by one joined in with the tricky pattern. Drummer Ali Jackson was feeding them material the entire night, especially Chick. Backstage on my way to Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, I spoke with Ali, who reminded me that Chick is a drummer at heart and plays piano like a drummer. No wonder they shared a wide grin during nearly ever trio moment.
I was heading to Dizzy’s to hear my former professor’s Rodney Jordan (bass) and Marcus Roberts (piano) perform with Jason Marsalis (drums) in what is now known as the Marcus Roberts Trio. Jason later told me how excited he was that he was to be performing around the corner from Chick and that there had been “talk” a few months back about Chick sitting in with Marcus. Low and behold, Chick grabbed a seat in the audience just before Marcus took the stage.
At the bar stood a number of Lincoln Center cats including Wynton, Walter Blanding Jr., Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, Wycleff Gordon. Marcus kicked off the set, the trio’s third one of the night, with a blues entitled “Bird and Monk”. The head has some of the weaving characteristics of a “Bird” head with the harmonic traits of a Monk blues. It was after this tune that he called Wycliffe, Printup and Blanding to the bandstand to perform another original tunes of Marcus’ entitled “Country by Choice”.
After the tune ended Marcus attested his affection and respect for Chick Corea and invited him to the piano. “I checked out this cat’s records when I was in high school. Tried to figure out his voicings. Still trying to figure them out”, Roberts remarked. What followed was a spontaneous collaboration of piano minds that was nothing short of magical. A four-handed country blues. The great thinkers of the piano sitting side-by-side sharing the instrument. I don’t suppose there are many things as intimate as two people sharing one piano. Here is a bootleg of “Country Blues”: