The Spanish Heart Band – Antidote, due out June 28 on Concord Jazz, revisits songs from Corea’s classic albums My Spanish Heart and Touchstone with a multi-cultural octet, plus new compositions and guest appearances by vocalists Rubén Blades, Gayle Moran Corea, and Maria Bianca
Throughout his storied career, iconic pianist/keyboardist Chick Corea has explored a wealth of music from across borders both geographical and stylistic. Time and again over the decades he’s returned to what he calls his “Spanish Heart” – the Spanish, Latin and flamenco traditions that have indelibly shaped his unmistakable sound. Now, with his new album Antidote, recorded with his brand-new Spanish Heart Band, Corea once again delves deeply into the Latin side of his musical heritage with a stunning collection of musicians from Spain, Cuba, Venezuela and the U.S.
Corea’s debut release with the Spanish Heart Band revisits classic pieces from two of the bandleader’s most beloved albums, My Spanish Heart and Touchstone, along with new compositions and favorites by revered composers like Antônio Carlos Jobim, Paco de Lucía and Igor Stravinsky.
Due out June 28, 2019 from Concord Jazz, Antidote is just that – a musical cure for a turbulent time, bringing together artists from diverse cultures to make harmonious music together. In addition to this stellar new ensemble, the recording features guest appearances by the acclaimed Panamanian vocalist Rubén Blades and gifted singers Gayle Moran Corea and Maria Bianca.
“My genetics are Italian,” Corea says, “but my heart is Spanish. I grew up with that music. This new band is a mix of all the wonderful and various aspects of my love and lifetime experience with these rhythms that have been such a big part of my musical heritage.”
To embark on this vibrant exploration, the 77-year-old keyboard virtuoso has assembled a brilliant eight-piece band: Flamenco guitarist Niño Josele and saxophonist/flutist Jorge Pardo both hail from Spain and have both worked with the late flamenco master Paco de Lucía. Bassist Carlitos Del Puerto was born in Havana, Cuba and played on Chinese Butterfly, Corea’s 2017 collaboration with legendary drummer Steve Gadd – as did Venezuelan percussionist Luisito Quintero.
Trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and trombonist Steve Davisform an unstoppable horn front line, while Marcus Gilmore follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, the great Roy Haynes, as a master drummer (and close collaborator with Corea). The band is augmented by the fiery footwork of rising star flamenco dancer Nino de los Reyes.
“Continuing along the lines of his landmark recordings, Touchstoneand My Spanish Heart,” says John Burk, Concord Records President, “Chick applies his creative genius to further explorations of Spanish and Afro-Cuban styles with an exceptional cast of musicians, to produce some of the most thrilling, dynamic, and deeply musical work of his entire career.”
With a band of incredibly versatile musicians and his usual wide horizons, Corea composed a set of music that draws from a wealth of sources – jazz and Latin music, naturally, but also classical, funk and fusion elements. “This is the mixer,” he says, pointing to his head. “I drink in the culture around me, which is rich in ideas. I’m excited about this record because there are a lot of influences that come through in it.”
There has been a Latin tinge to Corea’s music almost as long as he’s been performing. His first gig upon arriving in New York City in 1960 was with the influential Cuban-born percussionist Mongo Santamaría at Birdland. As he recalls, “Four doors up from Birdland on Broadway was the Palladium, where you could hear people like Tito Puente, Machito, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri. I used to jump out of my gig [during breaks] and go stand in front of the bandstand at the Palladium. So the jazz scene that I came up in was very much a part of what I call my ‘Spanish Heart.’”
Corea has made no secret for his love of Spanish, Latin and flamenco music. In 1972 he debuted perhaps his most well-known composition, “Spain,” inspired by Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The piece has been recorded countless times since, including versions by de Lucía and Tito Puente. In 1976 he released My Spanish Heart, an innovative session combining jazz fusion with traditional Latin music; it went on to become one of Corea’s most successful albums and is universally considered a classic. 16 years later, he visited similar terrain on the even more expansive Touchstone, which spotlights his collaboration with de Lucía.
Corea revisits songs from both classic albums on Antidote. The title song from My Spanish Heart opens with a lush, moving vocal choir recorded by Corea’s longtime musical and life partner, Gayle Moran Corea. Stark piano chords lead into the familiar song, rendered here with an emotionally stirring vocal by Rubén Blades. The band then breaks into the electrifying dance of “Armando’s Rhumba,” a song penned by Corea in tribute to his father from the same album.
From Touchstone, Corea first offers an atmospheric rendition of “Duende,” with an evocative palette featuring Pardo’s soaring flute and thrilling interplay between the eloquent horns of Davis and Rodriguez. Quintero’s percussion dialogues with the rapid-fire patter of Nino de los Reyes’ dancing feet to open “Yellow Nimbus,” originally written as a duet for Corea and de Lucía. Here the pianist’s flurries are joined by the flamenco master’s virtuosic protégé, Niño Josele.
De Lucía composed “Zyryab,” named for the Persian-African poet and musician from 9th-century Spain who was credited with introducing the lute to the Spanish court, destined to evolve into the flamenco guitar. Corea recorded the original version with the guitarist in 1990 and revisits its blend of Spanish and Middle Eastern influences in intriguing fashion here.
Another blend of disparate genres shines through on “Pas de Deux,” a piece from Stravinsky’s ballet “The Fairy’s Kiss.” Corea’s solo piano arrangement weaves into his original piece “Admiration,” celebrating the feeling the bandleader has towards not only his inspirations but the remarkable ensemble that navigate his tricky stylistic mergers. The final composition Corea chooses to explore is Jobim’s classic “Desafinado,” which features the soulful vocals of Maria Bianca relating the tale of a love affair gone slightly out of tune.
The album opens with the title track, “Antidote,” a heartfelt entreaty written by Corea for Blades. The pianist’s lyric is a mission statement, defying the divisive issues we face with the fact that, “Music, musicians and all artists are the antidote to man’s inhumanity to man.” The music on Antidote captures that feeling with healing camaraderie, with the added spirit that Corea embraces in his lyric for “My Spanish Heart.”