Pandemic-Era Insights From Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Brandee Younger And More

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​Top row from left: Nduduzo Makhathini (Photo: Nailah Makhathini); Brandee Younger and Dezron Douglas at their home in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City (Photo: Courtesy of Artists); Chick Corea (Photo: Toshi Sakurai, Courtesy Chick Corea Productions). ​Bottom row from left: Christian McBride (Photo: R. Andrew Lepley); Stanton Moore at his home in New Orleans (Photo: Lauren Del Rio); Wolfgang Muthspiel and his 4-year-old daughter, Flora, at their home in Vienna (Photo: Courtesy of Artist); Kris Davis (Photo: ©Caroline Mardok).

(Photo: DownBeat Collage)

“Often they had restaurant jobs or coffee-shop jobs, and now their income that they were using to support themselves, that’s gone as well. So, I’ve been really impressed with the many calls I’ve received from other artists just checking in: ‘Hey, are you cool? You need anything?’ And I’ve been trying to do the same,” said Davis, who serves as associate program director of creative development for the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice in Boston. “It always amazes me—our community and how people come together and support each other. ... I just want people to know that the community is strong and if there’s anything that they can do to support artists—whether it’s going to their online concerts and paying some kind of fee to see those concerts or purchase records or anything—everything will help and we’ll get through this.”

Davis’ optimism is refreshing, even as the federal government and states’ governors squabble over a timeline to responsibly reopen parts of the economy. By late April, though, public opinion in some European countries reflected a broader consensus about how governments had responded.

“There’s a kind of feeling that people here trust the decisions that are being made,” said Vienna-based guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, who recently issued Angular Blues (ECM). “It looks like the [Austrian] government is aware that the whole arts sector is one that we have to protect.”

As countries struggle with the far-reaching impact of the virus, established performers—who perhaps are less financially strained than emerging artists—have supplied fans with hours of entertainment on the web. Interested in watching Questlove livestream a deejay set or taking in a Biophilia Records showcase with bassist Linda May Han Oh, pianist Fabian Almazan and trumpeter Adam O’Farrill? You can. Looking for an online music lesson from reedist Dave Liebman, saxophonist Caroline Davis or trumpeter Jeremy Pelt? They’re available.

One unexpected result of the lockdown is that fans now have the chance to glimpse the private lives of their heroes.

“When I do these livestreams, I’m completely alone in my room with the piano. Just me,” Chick Corea said from his home in Florida, following a truncated European tour with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. “No one else is around, and so I start my iPhone, and I write a little thing—hello. I practice some drums to get things started, and it’s just me. I remembered, that’s the way it was when I was kid. It was me in my room, just playing. So, the only difference now with doing the livestream is that there’s thousands of people viewing it.

“Many times, I’m not even announcing when I’m going to come on,” the veteran pianist and bandleader continued. “There’s no schedule to it, although I’ve been going on every day. There’s no sound engineer, there’s no stage, there’s no curtain, there’s no curfew. There’s no airplane. There’s no hotel—nothing. So, it’s a very interesting, stripped-down, direct experience to music. It’s my feeling for the music, without anything in-between.”

Our current predicament brings to mind other moments when humanity has faced adversity. And unfortunately, we don’t have to look back too far to find them.

“Everybody lost so much, and people didn’t have places to live,” Galactic drummer Stanton Moore said, comparing the pandemic to his experience as a New Orleans resident during Hurricane Katrina. “With this, it’s more tolerable, from my personal end of things. It does have its challenges—you know, staying positive and productive if you can’t leave the house—but at least we are all in our homes.”

Moore, like nearly every musician, has seen his plans for 2020 dramatically altered. Just as shelter-in-place orders swept across the country, Galactic was set to tour in celebration of its 25th anniversary. And to compound the problems Moore’s facing, he and his bandmates purchased the New Orleans club Tipitina’s in 2019.

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