Attending a pop artist with an extensive catalog’s concert is an exciting prospect for fans – you’ll never guess what he or she will play. For a jazz artist like Chick Corea, it’s a gift and a curse for the same reason. When the legendary pianist walked onto the Highline Ballroom stage to play a solo set, he had fans guessing: Will he play standards? Will he play classical? Will he play Return to Forever material? He couldn’t possibly please everyone, could he? “I don’t really have a plan,” Corea told the crowd. “I’m just going to sit down and see where this Yamaha takes me.”
Where that Yamaha grand piano took Corea, and the audience, was on an exhibition of dynamic surprises. The first was his brooding reading of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise.” Another was a charming rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” accompanied by trumpeter Wallace Romey and vocalist Gayle Moran (Corea’s wife). The final master stroke was when opera royalty Kathleen Battle joined him for Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Battle’s stunning pipes melded sublimely with Corea’s funky, bouncy treatment. Most people see an artist because they know what they’re getting. Chick Corea showed that sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
– Matthew Allen