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Jazz Legend Chick Corea On Composing Jazz Standards And His Upcoming India Tour

22-time Grammy winner, Chick Corea, is one of the most iconic jazz musicians of our time. Having collaborated with musical greats such as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, the keyboard virtuoso and composer forefronts this musical genre by often experimenting outside its boundaries. The jazzman is all set to make his India debut this November with a solo set in Mumbai. We caught up with the impassioned musician on his journey so far and his first tryst with India.

You’ve continuously experimented with your music and have often been referred to as one of the pioneers of ‘Jazz-Fusion’. What are your thoughts on these classifications in music? Which direction do you see your sound moving in now?

I do use terms such as ‘jazz’ and ‘classical’, albeit in a very general sense. Even when I’m conversing with my fellow musicians, the reference usually is “What people consider to be jazz…” or “What people think of classical music…” I’ve never really thought in terms of musical genres. In that sense, I want to keep fine-tuning my sound, which may or may not pertain to a particular genre. I want to create a soundscape where there is a continuous flow of communication with finer aesthetics.

You have a vast repertoire of songs that you’ve composed over the years. How does it feel when you revisit one of your older compositions?

Compositions, whether they are written by me or somebody else, are usually just starting points for improvisation. What matters is how we interpret music in a particular moment. So, no matter how old or recent any composition is; the sound must always be delivered in the now.

The music landscape has been rapidly changing with music schools becoming commonplace all over the world. With more people now opting to pursue music as a career, what advice would you like to share with aspiring musicians? How should one navigate between technique, theory, and improvisation?

Creativity cannot be taught; it is innate. Each aspiring artist has to set forth on a difficult but wonderful journey to discover his or her own tastes. They must then, have the courage, to mold their art according to what suits their sound. So, my cheap advice would be to trust your own instincts, and to not overthink. You are the best judge when it comes to your music.

You’ve had a brief encounter with Indian (Hindustani) music in the past when you’ve played with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. What attracts you most to Hindustani Classical music? Do you see yourself dabbling in any collaboration with Indian musicians in the future?

My favourite musical piece in the Indian context, so far, has been John McLaughlin’s Shakti, of which Zakir Hussain was an integral part. The fusion of elements in that collaboration is absolutely beautiful.

I am keen to learn more about Indian music. I know of it more as a feeling and a sound and a rhythm. Hopefully, this tour can be a stepping stone in the right direction!

You will be touring India for the first time in November 2018. What made you add India to your performance itinerary? What excites you most about this tour?   

After all these years of following India’s long spiritual history, I am looking forward to finally seeing some parts of the country. This being my first time in India, I am also excited to play for Indian audiences!

Could you tell us about the solo set that you will be performing at your shows in Mumbai?

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with bringing together diverse sounds of various composers from different eras to present a rich musical journey. For my set in Mumbai, I’ve chosen compositions by a number of composers that I love, such as Bill Monk and Thelonious Monk. I will also be playing some of my original work.


This conversation is a part of the DSSC Secret Conversation Series, where we get candid with the ace industry disruptors who map its course one masterstroke at a time.