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Herbie Hancock, Harlem Quartet Join Corea’s Blue Note Birthday

November 11, 2011

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- When Chick Corea signed on to commemorate his 70th birthday at the Blue Note with a monthlong November residency, he had to assemble a scroll-like set list for 10 bands, with only a day or less to rehearse for each gig.

“I thought it was so much fun the last time,” said Corea, who had a similar run at the club for his 60th and relishes the opportunity to “play music with great people and my friends.”

This weekend, Corea will present a twist on classical music when he takes the stage with the Harlem Quartet and vibraphonist Gary Burton. The pair’s groundbreaking recording, “Crystal Silence” (1972), took a chamber music approach to jazz, with folk and Latin influences.

“The kind of music my partners and I like to play grew up in small environments, in living rooms and clubs,” Corea said by phone. “It’s comfortable to return to the club setting and let it all hang out.”

Corea’s residency showcases his diverse career as a pianist and composer best known for fusing rock and jazz with Return to Forever in the 1970s. The Chelsea, Massachusetts, native rose to prominence in the 1960s as a member of Miles Davis’s band. Though rooted in jazz, he has performed with a wide range of artists such as banjo player Bela Fleck and the Foo Fighters of rock music.

“I let people classify their heads off,” said Corea, who lives in Florida when he isn’t touring. “I only evaluate it by how good it feels and do I need to make it better.”

Corea reunited last weekend with the Five Peace Band, an ensemble of all-stars he recorded with and for two years toured: guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist John Patitucci and Brian Blade on drums. Earlier this week, Corea and vocalist Bobby McFerrin revisited material from their 1992 recording, “Play.”

Homage to Miles

Next week, Corea will pay homage to Davis with a quintet made up of trumpeter Wallace Roney, bassist Eddie Gomez, drummer Jack DeJohnette and saxophonist Gary Bartz. Then he’ll turn to his love affair with Spanish melodies and rhythms Nov. 18-21, with “Chick’s Flamenco Heart.” He finishes the series with his Grammy Award-winning Elektric Band project from the 1980s Nov. 25-27.

Perhaps the most sought-after ticket is Corea’s Nov. 23 duet with piano legend Herbie Hancock.

“That will be the most unprepared show by design,” Corea said. “I think that’s what Herbie is going to want to walk into.”

(Chick Corea performs with the Harlem Quartet tonight through Sunday at the Blue Note, 131 W. 3rd St. Information: +1- 212-475-8592 or

(Patrick Cole is a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

--Editors: Jeffrey Burke, Lili Rosboch.

To contact the writer on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at

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