Few artists have electrified Ann Arbor audiences like Chick Corea. His 2015 performance with Herbie Hancock was one of the most recent University Musical Society performances of the past couple of years. His historic performance at Hill Auditorium during the Great Blizzard of 1978 (again with Herbie Hancock) was released as part one of “An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert.”
This coming weekend, Corea partners with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to present an evening of Corea’s music at Hill Auditorium. The concert will also feature the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, another ensemble that has proven to be extremely popular among Ann Arbor audiences.
This concert also marks the end of the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s first tour without Wynton Marsalis, the accomplished leader of the ensemble who is currently taking a brief hiatus to pursue other projects.
“This was a good first foray into touring without Wynton,” said Jason Olaine, Director of Programming and Touring for Jazz at Lincoln Center, in an interview with The Daily. As they enter their last couple days of performances, “the band and Chick have been really happy.”
Jazz at Lincoln Center is a notoriously busy organization. I interviewed Olaine as he arrived back to New York from Shanghai, and as the ensemble moved from Arizona to Chicago. With this hectic schedule, it’s easy to understand why Marsalis might have stepped away from the ensemble for a little while.
“Usually our Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis tours between 13 and 18 weeks every year,” Olaine said. “Wynton scheduled a short sabbatical and our agent happens to be Chick’s agent.”
While the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chick Corea go on tour all the time, Ann Arbor is lucky to have hosted 18 previous Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concerts and five previous Chick Corea concerts.
“This concert does speak to your in-house-programming to have been able to secure this date,” Olaine said.
Corea is perhaps best known today for his versatility. He has performed throughout his career with a huge number of artists, collaborating with everyone from Miles Davis to Bobby McFerrin. He has worked frequently in the past with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and is quite popular among the members of the ensemble.
Last time he worked with the orchestra, “Chick had a great time and we loved it,” Olaine said. “Victor Goines has been working with Chick as co-music director,” he continued, and there has been “lots of great energy all around.”
Corea and the ensemble have gone on to develop a close relationship, performing not as soloist and orchestra but as a coherent ensemble.
“It’s a little bit different than coming up with a new setlist every night,” Olaine said. “Chick is such a grandmaster, and it’s been to be pretty special (to work with him).”
In the past, the ensemble has collaborated with Corea to perform newer compositions. They also worked quite extensively on the music of Thelonious Monk. During this tour, however, they’re “primarily focusing on (Corea’s) music,” Olaine explained.
Saturday’s performance marks the end of the tour that started in Provo, Utah on Mar. 20. Given what he has heard of the first portion of the tour, Olaine seemed confident that it will be a magical event. The Final Four basketball game on the same night recently pushed the concert back a half hour, and he predicted that this would only add to the energy of the performance.
“The concert in Michigan on Saturday is gonna be a great one,” Olaine said. In their previous collaborations, “Chick has had a great time and we absolutely loved it.”
As for future performances of both the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chick Corea in Ann Arbor, Olaine was hesitant to make any promises. “When it works out next, we’ll see,” he said.
As for the end of the tour, however, he predicted a great performance. Saturday’s performance will mark the end of a fantastic tour and (hopefully) the beginning of a new collaboration between artist and ensemble.
“Chick has been having a great time, and our guys love Chick,” Olaine said. All in all, it promises to be another exciting evening for these two ensembles in a city that has played host to some remarkable concerts from them over the past 40 years.