Chick by jowl

Forty-two years after collaborating on their first album together, jazz legends Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes grace these shores for a one-gig foray as part of a world tour.

Corea 311 (photo credit: Michael Grecco)
Corea 311
(photo credit: Michael Grecco)
They do say, don’t they, that it is generally a folly to try to relive your past. You can’t go back, right? Try telling Chick Corea that. On September 4 the veteran jazz keyboardist, who has no less than 16 Grammy Awards to his name, will perform at Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium alongside bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes, in a lineup rematch of the trio’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs record which was released in March 1968. Naturally, none of the three are in the spring chicken league. Corea turns 70 next year, Vitous will 63 in December and the irrepressible Haynes – a phenomenon of nature – is 85 years old and still putting jazz musicians half his age to shame.
In recent years the music industry has increasingly put out products by reassembled bands, in the hope of reviving the affections and, no doubt, pockets of the generation which heard them when they were starting out, while drawing in new admirers who may not even have been born when the artists first took the band stand. Even so, in terms of time lapse and CV highlights, this threesome probably has the rest of the retro gang beat.
If the term super group could ever be applied to a gathering of jazz artists this would have to be it.
Corea has been an ivy leaguer in the genre since making his name as a member of the groundbreaking fusion troupe led by iconic trumpeter Miles Davis in the late Sixties. Czech-born Vitous also joined forces with Davis on several occasions, and enjoyed fruitful synergies with the like of frontliners pianist Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Jack DeJohnette, as well more than a handful of artistic encounters with Corea over the years. Haynes, meanwhile, is a walking drumming legend who has been around since the very birth of modern jazz, back in the mid-forties, and has kept time for such giants as saxophonists Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, trumpeters Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk and celebrated diva Sarah Vaughan.
FOR COREA, even after an interval of over four decades, his forthcoming reunion with Vitous and Haynes seems like a perfectly natural way to go.
“We've always been in touch through the years.
Something so deep seems not to be affected by time,” he observes.
Still, they have been out and about a lot, independently of each other, for the last 42 years so, presumably, playing together now will be different for them compared with back then. Corea refuses to be drawn on that one, preferring to take a “wait and see” stance.
Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was something of benchmark album for Corea, and included some free improvisational material too. He had laid down his leader marker a couple of years earlier, with his debut Tones for Joan’s Bones album, but Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was a far more mature effort. Corea says his artistic development in those early years, and ever since, has followed a gradual course rather than traversing a series of starbursts.
“I've always taken life one step at a time, and it’s the same with music. I wrote a song for this trio on that [Now He Sings, Now He Sobs] recording called ‘Steps’. I love to make music and make people happy with music.”
Besides his own brilliant musicianship, Miles Davis was also amazingly adept at putting combos together and introducing new talent to the world, and showing his sidemen the way to go. Corea and Vitous are no exception.
“Miles was, is and always will be a great inspiration,” says the keyboardist. “He was a great leader and opened so many creative doors for others, including me, to walk through.”
Even so, the success of the Corea-Vitous-Haynes get together, considering the different cultural and artistic baggage each brought to the mix, is surprising.
Corea is of Sicilian and Spanish descent and his father, Armando, was a jazz trumpeter who had led a Dixieland band in the Boston area in the 1930s and 1940s. Vitous started out on violin, and then piano, gaining a good grounding in classical music before taking up bass and eventually crossing the Pond to enroll at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Haynes, of course, had been there and done that with many of the pioneers of modern jazz before his trio cohorts were out of diapers. Even so, Corea says for the members of the trio finding a common language was anything but hard work.
“It was immediate and it was magical,” he states simply.
The audience at the Mann Auditorium concert will, no doubt, be eager to discover whether than “magical” chemistry is still there 42 years on.
Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes will appear at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv on September 4 at 8 p.m. Ticket information: call (03) 604-5000 or *8965 or go to: