Chick Corea, Béla Fleck bring world-class music to Phillips Center
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 3:20 p.m.
Genius is a much-abused word. But, every once in a while, it is the only word that will do.
IF YOU GO:
What: Renowned jazz pianist and banjoist appear in duo performance
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 3201 Hull Road, Gainesville
Tickets: $25-$50, $15 UF students
Along with their respective solo careers, pianist Chick Corea and banjoist Béla Fleck are known for renowned collaborations and ensemble work — Corea in work ranging from Miles Davis and John McLaughlin to Gary Burton and Pat Metheny; and Fleck in sessions ranging from the group Asleep at the Wheel to Edgar Meyer and Alison Brown as well as his own Flecktones. Corea and Fleck performing as a duet, however, first on the 2007 album “The Enchantment” and now on their current world tour, represents a broad coming together of two seemingly disparate musical worlds. Below are links to two songs from “The Enchantment” as well as an overview about the duo coming together and the making of the album.
Overview for the 2007 “The Enchantment” album:
“Waltse For Abby,” from the album “The Enchantment”:
“Brazil,” from the album “The Enchantment”:
Take, for instance, the pairing of world-class banjoist Béla Fleck with jazz legend Chick Corea. Fleck and Corea, who will perform at the Phillips Center on Wednesday, first got together in 2007 and produced the Grammy Award-winning album, “The Enchantment.” Now, they are touring together again after several years apart.
“It's going to be different,” Fleck says. “We're already talking about how we can do things differently.”
That sort of insatiable searching is deeply embedded in both men.
“I'm always a student,” Fleck says. “It sounds like a pat thing to say, but it's actually true. If I'm not being pushed musically on tour, I don't want to do it. If playing with somebody doesn't change my playing from what I would do without them, then there's no reason for me to play with them.”
Corea expresses similar sentiments.
“I love to wander around and just try things out — find out how something works by testing it, go someplace I've never been before to see what's there, dissolve a mystery by looking into it,” he said in an email interview. “Improvisation is kind of deciding to not know what you're going to play until you play it. It's a trick to arrange your mind that way.”
Fleck says that he idolized Corea's playing growing up, and he learned many things from playing with Corea the first time around.
“There are people who have created the template for the kind of musician I am, and Chick is one of them,” he says. “When Chick and I first got together, I said, ‘Chick, you know I'm not a jazz musician, right? I don't know all that harmony and stuff.' And he said, ‘You just be you, and I'll figure out a way to justify it.'”
But, Corea says he has also learned from Fleck.
“Béla is a wonder,” he said. “A man with a limitless imagination, which he pours through that funny instrument of his. I've grown to like the banjo a little through him, but I love his creativity. It's a fun duet.”
It is nearly impossible to overstate what it means to have Fleck and Corea performing together. The two have spent their entire lives immersed in music — searching, learning, playing, writing and performing. Music seeps from their pores. It is in their DNA. Fleck has taken the banjo places it has never been, both with his group, the Flecktones, and through his myriad collaborations with musicians from around the globe. Corea has been part of some of the most important music ever made, whether with Miles Davis and “Bitches Brew,” or as a sideman to the likes of Stan Getz and Cab Calloway, or as a collaborator with people like Herbie Hancock and Bobby McFerrin, or finally as a bandleader with multiple projects, including the avant-garde free jazz band, Circle, and the seminal fusion group, Return To Forever.
Add to that the rarity of hearing a duet of banjo and piano, and the mixture becomes even more enticing.
“In any situation you're in, you have to try to figure out how to make the music sound complete,” Fleck says. “So with a bigger group, you play more sparsely. But with a smaller group, you have to take on more. For instance, if there are no drums, you have to play more rhythmically. With Chick and I, for instance, there's a lot of rhythmic interplay, and a strong sense of both of us creating the pulse without a rhythm section. What's fun about different collaborations is how your role changes and how you play differently, but you have to be with someone inspiring. I look for those situations.”
Ultimately, it seems the men share a great mutual respect, which carries over into their playing.
“I can't think of anybody I'm prouder to share the space with,” Fleck says.