Chick Corea, the Grammy winning, internet-chatting jazz legend and avid Scientologist, found some time to chat with PETRA STARKE

YOU’RE often labelled a ‘‘pioneer’’ in the music world – is that a label you enjoy wearing? 

CC: I learned a long time ago to let everyone have whatever opinion of me and anything else in life that they want, because that’s how I like to be treated. People can put whatever mantles they want to on whoever they want to – it doesn’t bother me. I don’t think about it too much.

You’ve played in some legendary bands, notably when you replaced pianist Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’s band. You’ve previously described Herbie as your mentor – what did you learn from him? 

He’s one of them, definitely. I’ve been a fan of Herbie ever since, well gee, ever since I heard him play. I was fortunate enough to make music with him in the late’70s.We did some piano things together and we’ve been fast friends ever since.

What was it like working with Miles? 

Definitely my memories are all pleasant ones because Miles was a very important mentor and set standards for me.I started listening to him when my dad brought home 78rpm discs of Miles playing Charlie Parker. I even remember the yellow label. I liked his trumpet playing right away, I liked all that music. I got to work with him in 1968, and the two years I worked with him were glorious and meant a lot to me.

Did you have any inkling at the time that the music you were creating in that band, like the legendary Bitches’ Brew, would end up being so influential?

I didn’t, for sure, and I don’t think anyone did, even Miles. Those recordings were pure experiments. Miles was like a spiritual sorcerer. He brought people together, he brought musicians together and set up a musical format that was very open and loose, and allowed everyone that was playing to enter in their own creative ideas. Everyone was pretty much improvising and Miles was the pivot point. They were exciting times.

I noticed you’re very generous with your fans on your website, answering their questions and chatting with them. Many superstars don’t seem to find the time for that sort of thing. 

At first I kind of stayed away from doing things like that, because chatting on the internet can get really confusing. But recently I thought one offering that would possibly be helpful is to answer questions – a lot of fans are musicians themselves. So I open myself up on the website and make an attempt to give my cheap advice.

Your fans must appreciate that. 

They do and I like that. I like to be able to help young musicians, and musicians in general. I like to see audiences being pleased at music being created. It’s a sign of whatever health is left in our culture.

Until just recently it had been more than 40 years since you and guitarist John McLaughlin had played together. What was the impetus to re-team? 

We played together in Miles’s band, but then we went our separate ways and formed our own bands in the ’70s. But we always kept a friendship all through the years. We never really did a thorough creation of new music together though so I felt the time was right. I wanted to do something with him so I presented the idea, and he liked it very much.

After all these years, was it easy to find the rhythm with each other again? 

It’s much easier now and much better now. My body gets older but I learn more and more and I love music more and more.

You’ve been a follower of Scientology since the 1970s, well before it got ‘‘famous’’. How important is your religion to your art? 

Everybody gets influenced by and learns through different ways and sources, and gets different inspirations and it becomes part of your life. I came across the writings of L Ron Hubbard and it inspired me very much, so that’s personal to me.

Are you bothered by the bad rap that Scientology often gets? 

I ignore it. I ignore the media in general. I don’t trust the media, it has nothing to do with reality. Reality is the fact that I align myself with positive things, not only in religion but in music too. I don’t look inward, I look outward, and I try to concentrate on things that are interesting to me and to audiences, and I keep doing that over and over again, and the results are the smiles on people’s faces – or the frowns. Fortunately they’re usually smiles.

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Originally published in The Sunday Mail (IE).