Considering Chick Corea’s Grammys Success And The Kitchen Sink Of Genre : NPR

Chick Corea holds a freshly won Grammy in the press room of the awards ceremony in LA on February 8, 2015. Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images hide the caption

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Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

Chick Corea holds a freshly won Grammy in the press room of the awards ceremony in LA on February 8, 2015.

Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

Chick Corea received 23 Grammy awards, the most jazz artist of all time, when he died shockingly last month at the age of 79. At the 63rd Grammys this Sunday he was able to add two more: Best Improvised Jazz Solo for him, a crisp piano excursion on “All Blues” and Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Trilogy 2, on which this performance appears.

A posthumous honor would hardly be atypical for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which awarded the late Ray Charles a total of eight Grammys in 2004, including Album of the Year. A fresh garland or two for Corea feels like an obvious commemorative gesture. And for those who tend to criticize the Recording Academy as a conservative body, it would be telling if it won you over to a tune that first appeared more than 60 years ago: “All Blues” by Miles Davis’ child of Blue.

If Corea’s legacy haunts the jazz landscape at this year’s Grammy Awards, its impact will be both more subtle and pervasive than any throwback tribute. For one thing, the final round of voting was completed more than a month before his death, so sentimentality shouldn’t tarnish the results. And Corea was the exact opposite of a genre essentialist, despite always identifying as a jazz musician. His artistic scope was large enough to include acoustic post-bop and electronica. Mozart and Mongo Santamaría; Brazilian Samba and Spanish Flamenco; and almost every subspecies of fusion. His first Grammy award was in 1975 for “No Mystery,” a melancholy, springy prog chamber anthem he composed for his band Return To Forever. Like the scope of its career, it defies any fixed placement along any grid.

From Chick Corea, a very recent solo performance of “No Mystery”.


In other words, Corea always practiced the kind of genre fluidity we consider core competency today by simply pursuing his own fascinations. That made him an ideal model for Grammy’s ubiquity – a kind of limitless virtuoso game enough to say, “Sure, I’ll be playing a live show with The Foo Fighters” – and an outlier all in one System controlled by sorting mechanisms. Amanda Petrusich wrote in The New Yorker this week: “It’s hard to imagine that a Grammy ceremony isn’t based on the genre as an organizational principle – I suppose that would mean receiving just one award, the best music – but the genre feels increasing. ” irrelevant to the way we think about art, create it and consume it. ”

Corea made this clear, at least as early as 1983, when he told the New York Times that the relentless categorization of music was less of a concern for musicians than a preoccupation with “the media and business people who eventually have a free movement” interest in that Keep marketing clear and separate. “What he didn’t recognize at the time was the rise of a rigorous strain on jazz traditionalism that was already beginning to reshape the discourse and trade around music. It would last for the rest of the 1980s and well into the 1990s the path of least resistance for mainstream jazz artists to be very similar to that of their predecessors, not that Corea let it stifle his eclecticism or even his garish enthusiasm.

His partners on Trilogy 2, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, were outstanding products of this neo-traditionalist era. So did saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau, who joined McBride and Blade at the high-profile reunion that produced RoundAgain, another contender for the Best Jazz Instrumental Album. However, each of these artists has also exercised a broad license to cross genre boundaries or to blur them beyond the point of delineation. The same applies to the other nominees in the jazz instrumental category: drummer Terri Lyne Carrington with her project Social Science; Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire with his fearless band; and the pianist Gerald Clayton with an ass quintet.

Clayton’s nominated album, Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard, shares the exact same pedigree as another nominated album, Jon Batiste’s Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard. But you won’t find Batiste – the percussive pianist, boisterous singer, Pixar proxy, and band leader of the Late Show – in the official jazz section. Instead, its chronology is in the running for the best contemporary instrumental album, along with releases from other obvious jazz refugees like Snarky Puppy, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and French harmonica ace Grégoire Maret (with pianist Romain Collin and guitarist Bill Frisell ).

There’s a cynical way of looking at this genre bypass. Could Batiste and others – like singer-songwriter Gregory Porter and pianist Robert Glasper, both of whom received R&B nominations earlier this year – are trying to improve their playing and become aware of a harmful form of jazz -To oppose provincialism? It is certainly possible. But there is another interpretation that is consistent with the ideals of Corea and some of his closest colleagues, such as Herbie Hancock. It’s worth remembering that Hancock won the first two of his 14 Grammy awards in R&B categories – the same track that later opened to Glasper, who has three so far.

Glasper once told me that the first jazz album he owned was a cassette from Alive by the Chick Corea Acoustic Band. A few years ago he followed Corea’s example and settled down for a month at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, where he presented a variety of work projects. (One of them was R + R = NOW, a collective that aTunde Adjuah ​​is a part of. You can hear highlights from his appearance on a new album, LIVE.) Because he’s at the musical confluence, in jazz on hip -Hop meets, had so much success and R&B, Glasper is often asked to speak about the genre. Sometimes his answers are frivolous, but sometimes instructive. “I’m a jazz musician at my core,” he told Okayplayer in 2019. “I follow the old definition. Back in the 1960s when you heard that someone was a jazz musician, you were excited. Because you knew they could play other things.” He added, “When you are a jazz musician , to me it means that you have the tools to master any other genre of music. “

This revealing definition can be the best way to explain why there are so many jazz musicians scattered outside of their designated zone via the Grammy nominations. It is not only “Best Contemporary Instrumental Music” that has become a de facto jazz category, but also a large part of the field devoted to non-classical composing and arranging. The eclectic pianist John Beasley has nominations in two arranging categories that include saxophonist Remy Le Boeuf, vocal group säje, and guitarist Pat Metheny (who won 20 Grammys and belongs in the same genre-exploding conversation as Corea and Hancock).

As for “Best Instrumental Composition”: With the exception of the film composer Alexandre Desplat, this year it is exclusively a jazz prize. The front runners are Maria Schneider, a five-time Grammy winner who is also a candidate for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, and Arturo O’Farrill, a four-time winner who also competes with his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra in the tough competition for Best Latin Jazz Album.

One of those competitors, the Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra, will be among the cast at a Grammy premiere on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET before it airs. Together with Säje, Gregory Porter, the saxophonist Kamasi Washington and the singer Thana Alexa, they will honor Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” on the occasion of their 50th anniversary. It’s the happy kind of tribute as a traffic jam that has long been a trademark of the Grammys, but it’s also a manifestation of the limitless landscape Corea has explored all his life.

“A style is not something you learn, but something you synthesize,” he said in this 1983 interview with The Times. “Musicians don’t care if a particular composition is jazz, pop or classical music. They care all that matters is whether it’s good music – whether it’s challenging and exciting. “

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