When Chick Corea passed away last year, jazz music, and music in general, lost a giant. As a pianist, composer and bandleader, Corea was legendary, pushing jazz forward while respecting its traditions at the same time. His legacy is massive, as is his catalog of music.
On Aug. 20, a large ensemble will pay tribute to Corea and his music at the Charleston Music Hall. Charleston Jazz Orchestra, accompanied by four local jazz pianists, will perform a program called “Eye Of The Beholder,” an evening of Corea’s compositions from his six-decade-plus career.
The pianists, Abdiel Iriarte, Demetrius Doctor, Arshak Sirunyan and Gerald Gregory, will all perform solo sets with Charleston Jazz, most of them playing their own arrangements of Corea classics. At the end of the program, there will be an exciting all-hands-on-deck moment.
“For the last tune, we’ll bring everybody back out,” said Charleston Jazz Orchestra’s conductor and artistic director Robert Lewis. “They’ll all take a solo on one of Chick Corea’s most famous tunes called ‘Spain.’ If you’re a jazz lover, you’re probably familiar with that tune. It’ll be kind of a big party at the end.”
Lewis said the idea for the Chick Corea tribute show came up naturally last year while planning the next season.
“We plan the seasons pretty far in advance,” he said. “And so, it was right during the middle of that process that we started thinking about doing a tribute to Chick Corea because he had just passed away. So the germ of the idea started there. We were thinking that there just happens to be several world-class piano players in Charleston, most of whom had played with the band on and off, and to get them all on stage at once would be a lot of fun.”
One of those pianists is a longtime fan of Corea’s music.
“Chick Corea was of course one of the first names that came up when I first started to research jazz music,” local pianist Abdiel Iriarte said. “One of the first tunes I came across was ‘Spain.’ I started playing in a jazz band, and that was one of the first tunes I heard about. I immediately liked it, and I came across all his music from that fusion era. I started playing more of that fusion stuff, too. Then I came across his album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, and it was like a revelation.”
As a fan of Corea’s “Spain,” Iriarte said he’s looking forward to the finale of the “Eye Of The Beholder” program.
“It’s so, so inspiring to get to play with these other three great pianists,” he said. “They’re great friends, too. And we never really got to play together, because in a normal jazz band setting rarely would you have two pianists. This opportunity for the four of us to play together in that last song is like a super plus. It’s a joy of many things together: playing that great tune and the four of us playing at the same time. It’s going to be really cool.”
Iriarte added that he’s honored to have been selected as one of the pianists to perform, noting that there are a lot of talented jazz musicians in Charleston to choose from.
“It’s a privilege,” he said, “because when I moved to Charleston one of the things that struck me the most was how much talent there is in this town. There are so many great musicians in this area and great jazz pianists. So having been selected to be featured in this show was just an honor.”
For his part, Robert Lewis said he hopes people walk away from “Eye Of The Beholder” with a better perception of Corea’s genius.
“If they haven’t really been exposed to much Chick Corea, then I think this is going to be a great introduction to his music,” he said.
“You have all sorts of jazz fans — people who are fans of the older styles, like Duke Ellington and Count Basie — who may not have explored much of the more modern genre of jazz. So if that’s the case, I think they’re going to enjoy and have their eyes opened because his music is modern, but it’s very much within tradition. It’s accessible and fun while being challenging and complicated.”
Catch the show at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Aug. 20 at Charleston Music Hall. Tickets available at charlestonmusichall.com.
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