Returning to forever
RUTLAND -- Some recording artists are frozen in time, linked to a certain period in one's life, now gone and out of reach. Their music resonated and burned itself indelibly into that period. But decades later -- can that magic return?
I'll head north to Rutland this Saturday to catch Chick Corea at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland to see. My memories of his masterful piano work were formed in the 1970s when -- with bandmates like bass player Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al DiMeola, drummer Lenny White and percussionist Airto Moreira -- Corea made some of the most adventurous, out-on-the-edge music of the time. Known as jazz-rock fusion, Corea's "Return to Forever" bands spun out one album after another pushing toward new frontiers.
Whether it was the melodic Brazilian-flavored "500 Miles High" with Flora Purim on vocals, or the hard crunch of the electric-heavy "Romantic War-rior," or the light fantasy inducing sway of "Light as a Feather," Chick Corea is part of my 1970s soundtrack. He worked as background music on a party-fueled Saturday night, or for a mellow unwinding on a Sunday afternoon.
But Corea has moved on since those days. No one wins 20 Grammy awards by standing still. He has produced several dozen more albums and bodies of music with an astonishing variety of other artists.
Born in Chelsea in 1941, the son of a trumpet player who led his own bands during the 1930s and ‘40s, Armando Anthony Corea began studying piano at the age of 4, breaking into professional music with Cab Calloway, then the playing with the Latin jazz star Mongo Santamaria. His collaboration with legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis on the breakthrough album, "Bitches Brew," -- which can be fairly said to have launched the entire jazz rock fusion genre in the very early 1970s -- put him on the map and paved the way for the first "Return to Forever" album, released in 1972.
Corea will perform solo on piano at the Rutland concert, something he enjoys doing, he said in an email.
"Sometimes I like to experience playing alone for audiences -- just to see how I'm doing without other help and influences," he wrote. "Plus, the piano is my favorite instrument, and it gives me a chance to spend more time playing it and developing ideas just for it."
He has played in Vermont many times, he said, and he likes this part of the country.
He will perform Saturday, April 12, in a theater that has also seen its share of history, rebirth and regeneration.
The Paramount Theatre opened in 1912, known then as The Playhouse Theatre of Rutland. In that era, entertainment halls were decked out -- ornate tapestries covered the walls, and the ceilings contained gold-leaf flourishes. The playhouse evolved into a movie theater in the 1930s and became a popular venue for generations of Rutland residents, until harder economic times struck in the 1970s, and the theater shut down.
It reopened in March 2000 and has once again assumed a leading role in the town's arts and cultural scene. The past few years have seen a parade of top name acts, from The Chieftains, the ageless Irish instrumental group, to Gregg Allman of the legendary Allman Brothers Band (also part of my 1970s soundtrack memory).
More established acts are on the way, said Eric Mallette, the theater's programming director for the past 10 years.
"The first few years after reopening, we were finding out what worked and what didn't," he said.
People today tend to know the performers who are at the top of their respective niches, it's jazz, classical or contemporary, and the goal is to attract an artist at or near the top of their niche, he said -- like Chick Corea.
"If you're a fan of music, someone like Chick Corea is someone you'd want to see," he said.
Considering contemporary recording artists, Corea himself finds many he admires today.
"I think the world is rich in creative artists," he said, "although I would like to see even more people involve themselves with the arts. I'm attracted to artists who pour themselves into their creations and am inspired by observing the hard work that joyfully goes into the making of what they do."
If you go ...
What: Chick Corea in concert
Where: Paramount Theatre,
When: 8 p.m., Saturday, April 12.
Information: (802) 775-0903, paramountvt.org Where: Massry Center for the Arts, 432 Western Ave., College of St. Rose, Albany, N.Y.
When: 8 p.m., Friday, April 11
Admission: $40 for adults,
$20 for students
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