I grant you that this evenings show at Bonn’s Kunstrasen was billed as ‘Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke play songs from ‘Return to Forever’ but on a mellow evening like this my ears told me they were in fact playing songs from Heaven. Legends come, and sadly they also go. All the more reason to enjoy two of the Jazz greats and the Summer air on the Rhine while we still can.
The two men in front of me could be making music in a basement apartment somewhere. Both casually dressed in worn jeans and sneakers. The man behind the Steinway piano has a light scarf draped casually around his neck against the light breeze and his eyebrows are arched into a youthful smile that belies the white curly hair above them. The smile is directed at the gentleman seated to his left and plucking deftly at the strings of his own instrument – a weathered looking double bass.
It’s a magical sound this man is getting from his instrument. We know the tune is dedicated to his wife because he told us so. “It’s great as a musician, to be able to write songs for the one you love” he said. It must be great to be a loved one of such a musician too.
Much of the music these men play is dedicated to, or inspired by, friends, family and lovers. ‘Waltz for Debbie’ was written for the niece of the late pianist Bill Evans and even though it’s difficult to hear a waltz in it, there is a very haunting refrain that needs someone with talent to hit it just right. The two men in front of me do indeed ‘hit it just right’.
‘Armando’s Rhumba’ is written for a beloved father and ‘La Cancion de Sophia’ (Song for Sophia) for a beloved wife. Music from emotion. Only the occasional chink of an ice machine in the far distance or the occasional creak of a plastic chair bring me back to earth – force eyes that are closed in relaxed reverie to survey reality. Which is not really so bad at all: A light breeze riffling blades of grass at the feet and overhead seabirds are heading towards the Rhine – disappearing out of view behind the top of the stage on their long journey.
What’s this? A request for audience participation? Gentle clapping along to the downbeat. Somewhere in the middle of ‘Blue Monk’ a woman’s gospel tinged voice answers the call, and there are bemused smiles and encouragement from the two gentlemen on stage as she carries the tune and runs with it perfectly.
No one is likely to join in on the final piece though. It’s just something you listen and dream to. Rodrigo’s ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ is not something to be attempted as a piano/bass duo unless you are ridiculously talented. Fortunately Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke are.
Not being a Jazz expert I’m rather ashamed to say that I had to do a quick ‘Jazz for Dummies’ on these guys. ‘Fusion Jazz’ was a term that leapt out time and again. There was mention of Stannley Clarke in the same breath as the tragic Jaco Pastorius, and Chick Corea in the same band as Miles Davis. To me though they looked just like regular guys out to make music on a pleasant afternoon. It was only when I closed my eyes that they seemed to be playing at a different venue altogether. Somewhere closer to heaven than to Bonn.