Blindfold Test: Chick Corea


Chick Corea, the lost Blindfold Test

(Photo: Jimmy Katz)

Thelonious Monk took the Blindfold Test only once, and the results were published in the April 21, 1966, issue of DownBeat. Because he was not interested in the first selection, journalist Leonard Feather strategically pivoted to playing versions of Monk’s compositions.

In this previously unpublished Blindfold, conducted in August 2005, we honor the memory of pianist Chick Corea, who sat down for a “Chickfold Test.” Backstage at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California, prior to a duo concert with Bobby McFerrin, Corea commented on others’ interpretations of his own compositions.

He respectfully declined to use the traditional Blindfold Test five-star rating system, noting, “All musicians, they’re my friends. So, I want to encourage everybody. To tear the music apart like a critic is not a tendency [for me].”

This was Corea’s fourth Blindfold Test, following ones published in the DownBeat issues of Nov. 26, 1970, Oct. 24, 1974, and December 1995.

Marian McPartland

“Matrix” (Portrait Of Marian McPartland, Concord, 1979) McPartland, piano; Jerry Dodgion, alto saxophone; Brian Torff, bass; Jake Hanna, drums.

Well, I have absolutely no idea who the group is. But that’s “Matrix.” That much I know. It’s funny, in jazz recordings they often put the drums in the kitchen. I don’t know why they do that. Because live, when you hear a jazz group like this play, drums are very prevalent. Anyway, that’s the mix. The music is nice.

I don’t know who it is, but they’re blowing great. It has a cool ending. [afterwards] No kidding! Wow, how about that! That’s amazing. She sounds great. When I was listening, I imagined that it was a young group ... like a high school or college group, because of the energy. It was kind of fresh, kind of sparkly. Good one, Marian!

Carmen Bradford

“High Wire” (With Respect, Evidence, 1995) Bradford, vocals; Steve Nelson, vibraphone; Donald Brown, piano; James Leary, bass; Ralph Penland, drums; Tony Cohan, lyrics.

That’s her vocal opening—very nice. She sounds like Chaka [Khan]. It’s swinging. Sounds good. That is Chaka. I love Chaka’s singing; she’s incredible. She sat in with me at Blue Note with [bassist] Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard on drums, on my birthday, and did this exact tune. We got a recording of it. Go ahead, Chaka! What record is this? Chaka recorded this on Echoes Of An Era [1982] with Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, me, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White.

[afterwards] Oh! It’s not Chaka? How about that? I’m impressed with the group. “High Wire” is not an easy tune to sing. It’s got little twists and turns in it. The singer did very well. I’m pleased to hear my music being performed so well.

Philip Bailey

“Sometime Ago” (Soul On Jazz, Heads Up International, 2002) Bailey, vocals; Scott Kinsey, piano, keyboards; John Hart, lead guitar; Mike “Dino” Campbell, guitar; Ira Coleman, acoustic bass; Billy Kilson, drums; Don Alias, congas, percussion; Neville Potter, lyrics.

That’s cool. I would have never expected that melody to come out of that vamp. It’s a nice treatment of the melody. It’s fading out. This great backdrop, with the melody dropped in. Nicely done.

[afterwards] Wow, that’s so interesting hearing this song come from a completely different creation, you know? I love what Phil did, really changing it around and using it differently than the original. It’s the game of it. Everyone’s got their own way of looking at it and listening to it and creating. It’s wonderful. That’s what I like about music.

Dave Samuels

“Hand Me Down” (Tjader-ized: A Cal Tjader Tribute, Verve, 1998) Samuels, vibraphone, marimba; Alain Mallet, accordion; Steve Khan, electric guitar; John Benitez, bass; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, drums; Karl Perazzo, percussion.

I didn’t know someone recorded this. Oh! I know what this is, I think. It’s the Cal Tjader tribute. It was a request to write a song for Cal Tjader, so this is a direct dedication to Cal. And then I took the arrangement and used it with my band Origin, so it really became a hand-me-down [laughs]. It’s a good recording of the marimba, too. It’s got a nice feel to it—makes me want to go and practice the marimba. Dave gave me some marimba lessons. I studied out of his book.

I love the marimba and have two of them. I have a portable marimba I took out on tour with Origin for a while.

Tito Puente & His Latin Ensemble

“Spain” (Sensación, Concord Picante, 1986) Puente, timbales; Ray Gonzalez, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jimmy Frisaura, valve trombone, flugelhorn; Mario Rivera, saxophone; Sonny Bravo, piano; Bobby Rodriguez, bass; José Madera, congas; Johnny Rodríguez, bongos.

Poppin’ right along. I have no idea who this is. Sounds good, though. Oh, he put some flamenco claps on the break. [afterwards] No! Really? I didn’t know Tito recorded “Spain”! That was a very exciting track. I’m honored that Tito recorded the tune. I never got to play with him. I would’ve loved to.

I used to go see Tito at the Palladium when I was working at Birdland in New York with Mongo Santamaría, Maynard Ferguson’s band, Blue Mitchell’s group, Willie Bobo’s new group and Sonny Stitt in the early ’60s. Birdland was right near the corner of 52nd and Broadway, and the Palladium was a couple of doors uptown, right on the same side of the street. So, in between sets at Birdland, I’d go over to Palladium and check out Tito. Machito used to work there, too—a lot of the New York guys. Eddie Palmieri’s band worked there.

Taylor Eigsti Trio

“Got A Match?” (Resonance, Bop City Records, 2003) Eigsti, piano; John Shifflett, bass; Jason Lewis, drums.

Piano player’s playing along there. Drummer better catch up! Piano player’s pulling the drummer. Pulling the bass player, too. He’s blowing hard. Whoa! Youthful energy, man. He’s got a great command of his instrument. Who is that piano player? [afterwards] Wow. I didn’t have technique like that when I was 17. That was wild. I wish him a lot of luck. He’s an excellent pianist.

I always get asked that question about, “Is the talent growing or drying up?” It’s definitely not drying up. There’s great talent around. We need to find ways of fostering it. The music culture is a great culture. I’m happy to be a part of it and want to do everything I can to help artists and make sure we have more of them. Things feel good when there’s a lot of music happening. DB

The “Blindfold Test” is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to discuss and identify the music and musicians who performed on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune using a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test.

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