This week we lost one of the all-time great jazz musicians: pianist, composer and bandleader Chick Corea. He first came to prominence as a sideman in the ’60s, eventually joining Miles Davis’s Lost Quintet around 1968, and very notably playing on the revolutionary fusion album Bitches Brew. In the ’70s he formed his own highly influential jazz fusion band, Return to Forever, and he continued to play a major role in both the fusion and traditional jazz scenes for the rest of his life.
He was also a Scientologist, which… well, I’m just putting it out there.
My introduction to Chick was, sadly, probably the least enduring of his work, the extremely ’80s (in a bad way) Elektric Band. I bought the newly-released fourth Elektric Band CD in high school when I was just discovering jazz, and it did nothing for me, so I kind of ignored Chick for many years, until the classic Return to Forever lineup (Chick, Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White) reunited to tour in the 2000s. I saw them live and was blown away, and then I began to explore Chick’s amazing work from the ’60s and ’70s… all of the RTF albums, plus albums like 1978’s Friends (which featured Smurfs on the cover, before they were “a thing” here in the U.S., at least), Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1968) and my absolute favorite, Light as a Feather from 1973.
In addition to that Return to Forever show, I also got to see Chick play with Steve Gadd at the Dakota Jazz Club here in Minneapolis in 2017. That show was a lifetime music highlight for me… two of my favorite musicians in an intimate venue. (We were sitting in the mezzanine, directly above and behind Steve Gadd’s drum kit, so I could watch everything he was doing!)
Last year when I was working on my Northern Daydream album, there were two additional tracks I had originally intended to include but abandoned midway through: Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay,” and Chick Corea’s “500 Miles High,” from Light as a Feather.
Yesterday I decided I needed to pay tribute to Chick by finishing my recording of “500 Miles High” with an accompanying video. Problem is, I had not started doing video yet when I recorded the fretless bass and electric piano parts (the only parts I had recorded) last year, so I had to start over. Luckily I still had the Logic project file, so I had a head start on doing the re-recording. I managed in one 8-hour blast to record new bass and electric piano parts, as well as the tenor sax and drum parts I had never gotten to the first time around, mix and master the recording, edit together the video, and even add an animated opening title sequence! It was definitely the fastest I’ve ever turned around a project like this, but I wanted to keep the momentum going.
Here it is!
In case you’re wondering about this weird orange space I record in, a bit of the secret is revealed near my sock-feet in the keyboard shot.
Sadly I do not (yet) have a proper recording booth built out in my house, but I do have a freestanding space in the basement, created by hanging four heavy moving blankets from the rafters, to form a 5′ x 5′ “booth” of sorts, with a fifth blanket above as a ceiling. A patchwork of rugs on the floor completes the sound dampening effect. It is most definitely not soundproof, but it is acoustically “dry,” which I have come to realize is more important!
The only downside is it’s right next to the furnace, so I do have to turn the heat off when I’m recording with microphones! But any other noise from upstairs — talking, walking around, etc. — does not get picked up noticeably by the mics.
This is better than the sound booth I created in a small closet at the shop I was renting for several years. I spent several hundred dollars on acoustical foam to cover every inch of the inside of that closet, but it could not compensate for the fact that Pizza Hut’s walk-in freezer was directly on the other side of the wall!