|Chick Corea & Gonzala Rubalcaba
Live At The Blue Note
Concert Review by: Fred Gerantab
Venue: Blue Note (New York, NY, USA)
Decmeber 20, 2001 - Most legendary artists, especially after 4+ decades, would take it easy on their 60th birthday. Chick Corea decided instead to throw a party, and invite some of the hottest talent, legendary and new, to join him for a week long engagement at NYC's jazz staple, the Blue Note. We had the pleasure of catching Chick in the duo setting with Cuban-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who has laid a solid (annd burning) mark on the scene as one of the finest young pianists in the Latin vein. Rubalcaba's notoriety in the states was sparked by early engagements with bassist Charlie Haden, and his own recordings for Blue Note have garnered extensive critical acclaim. It is safe to say Gonzalo was a Chick fan himself, and perhaps the close proximity of styles and sounds is what made this a perfect matchup.
The two sat themselves on the small Blue note stage, which was clustered by two large concert grands in 'yin-yang' formation, and Chick announced in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner that "Gonzalo and I are going to make something up for you now". That was the kick-off point for over an hour of brilliant music, most if not all of it the result of improvised interplay between the two pianists. The important thing to note is that both men share the training and knowledge of classical music structure which allows them to go beyond the standard 'blowing' over changes. Improvisations took form as compositions, whose motion was established through the exploration of motifs, variations and themes, and in almost Debussy-an fashion, themes both dark and playful, rigid and flowing, matched together seamlessly.
Corea and Rubalcaba both are masters of texture and 'listening'; chords stacked upon chords to provide seemingly infite harmonic depth, while complex lines weaved in and out of each other interwined, but never tangled. This is something that comes with the experience and temperance of a great musical relationship and comfort level.
This was an by all means one of the most exceptional shows one could hope to see; and it is proof on all fronts that Chick is the ever-evolving genius, whose fire continues to burn. The difference is, you can tell that the fire is controlled; something that comes with age and evolution only - the ability to master the force and flow of your musical ideas, not by restraint, but by balance and temperance.
The only disappointment here was that it doesn't exist as an album (yet). However, it is safe to say that the live experience is like no other, and each performance is something unique that cannot be duplicated, particularly in improvised music.