Chick Corea & Friends

Bouncing like a well-polished pinball among styles and formats his entire career–acoustic to electric, spun-glass ballads to fusion anthems, free jazz to modified flamenco to string quartets–Chick Corea has stayed true in one respect. He was, is, and always shall be an extraordinary pianist. Blessed with quicksilver technique and a preternatural sense of structure and melody both composed and improvised, his stylistic trademarks are so strongly stamped that they become cliches in others’ hands. Along with Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and McCoy Tyner, he made the 70s the decade of the keyboardist, in which pianists as a group exerted more influence on contemporary jazz than in any previous period. One such period–the flowering of bebop in the late 40s and early 50s–occupies Corea’s attention in this all-star quintet, which displays the influence of pioneering bebop pianist Bud Powell. Powell is often but wrongly described as having translated Charlie Parker’s ideas to the keyboard; in fact, he provided a distinctly pianistic view of bop, with radically original phrasing and harmonic glimpses of jazz’s pantonal future. Powell’s style tends to detract attention from his equally original compositions, but Corea has gathered a bunch of them for this project. With Miles Davis’s hand-picked successor Wallace Roney on trumpet and the highly regarded Kenny Garrett on alto sax, the band doesn’t try to re-create the 40s; instead, it uses these songs as the catalyst for modern explorations of substance and power, which garnered a sheaf of rave reviews on the festival circuit last summer. Corea himself sits at the apex of a three-generation rhythm triangle, with twentysomething wunderkind Christian McBride on bass and septuagenarian Roy Haynes on drums. The rest of the band may play Bud Powell, but Haynes played with Bud Powell, on a famous 1949 recording that starred Sonny Rollins and produced the classics “Bouncing With Bud” and “Wail.” Both those songs are in this band’s repertoire (and on the excellent recent album Remembering Bud Powell), and the presence of Haynes provides an electric link to the glory days of Bud and bop half a century ago–in case you needed one more reason to attend. Tuesday, 7:30 and 10:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Karen Miller.