June 12th of this year the jazz pianist Chick Corea turned seventy-five. In observance of that milestone, Corea staged a national tour, which ends in December after a two-month run at the Blue Note in New York. Corea’s residency will be largely a career retrospective with 80 shows booked, and Corea is reuniting with some former bandmates. For decades Corea has been one of the more decorated and accomplished musicians in jazz, leaving marks in post-bop, in free-jazz, in Latin jazz, and in jazz fusion. He’s earned a whopping 60 Grammy nominations winning 22 to date. You’d be correct to assume a musician Corea’s age would be satisfied with his accomplishments and contributions to music and would be ready to slow down. Not Corea.
Friday evening, for the opening concert of the 2016-2017 Paradise Jazz Series at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall Corea displayed the verve of a musician half his age still in the throes of proving himself. Corea’s trio drummer Brian Blade and bassist Eddie Gomez for two sets revealed to a packed house how a tightly in sync a jazz trio ought to sound. The first set started nearly 20 minutes late, a rarity for the Paradise Jazz Series. All the years I’ve attended the series the start time has been eight sharp without fail.
The crowd last evening wasn’t bothered one bit by the trio’s unexplained tardiness. Twenty minutes after eight, the trio walked onto the stage to an ovation. Corea was so delighted before he called the first number, he snapped a photo of the cheering audience with his Smartphone. Then the trio played “500 Miles High,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Anna’s Tango,” and “Humpty Dumpty”.
Gomez, a major talent in jazz four solid decades with a work history that includes a tenure with Bill Evans, was the focal point the first set. After listening to Gomez walk the bass, it was clear why for years he was Evans’s and Gerry Mulligan’s go-to bassist.
The second set the trio served back-to-back crowd-pleasers. Corea and Blade trading on “How Deep is the Ocean,” and Gomez awakening Bill Evans’s spirit soloing on “Waltz for Debby”. On the set closer, “Sicily” Corea and Blade had at it again. Their interplay near the end of the number brought many in the audience to their feet.
Surprisingly, the trio has only been playing together two weeks according to Corea. But he’s played with Blade and Gomez off and on respectively for years. Blade and Gomez had never played together before joining Corea. Even the most learned and discriminating jazz enthusiasts couldn’t tell that because Blade’s and Gomez's chops fit together seamlessly.
Throughout the concert, Blade showed the same sharpness and control all the years playing in the Wayne Shorter Quartet. Before the trio left the stage, Corea snapped another photo of the cheering audience. The cheering didn’t stop until the trio obliged the audience with an encore.