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Chick Corea

Chick Corea (born 1941)

Nationality: American
Born: June 12, 1941 (age 77)

Adventures of Hippocrates for String Quartet

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
Duration: 18 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 2004 (age 62-63)
From Kai Christiansen

Chick Corea, b. 1941

Adventures of Hippocrates (for string quartet), 2004
Chick CoreaChick Corea has enjoyed a distinguished and amazing career as an important American Jazz musician and composer. As a virtuoso on the piano and a variety of electronic keyboard instruments, Corea worked with a variety of noteworthy artists and ensembles including, Cab Calloway, Blue Mitchell, Stan Getz, Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaria and Miles Davis. Corea joined Miles Davis just as the avant-garde Jazz experiments of the time incorporated unstructured free jazz and a "fusion" with electric rock music resulting in such seminal recordings as "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew", both of which featured Corea as a sideman. On the crest of this wave, Corea formed his own band called "Return to Forever" that ruled the 70's as one of the preeminent "Fusion" bands combining Latin, rock and jazz elements into ambitious recordings featuring virtuoso improvisation and complex long-form arrangements with quasi-classical conceptions.

In 1994, Santa Fe Chamber Music Society and the Orion String quartet approached Corea with a commission. Corea was mightily impressed by the technical capabilities of the Orion Quartet and intrigued by the challenge of the traditional string quartet genre. The project resulted in the first composition he ever wrote in which he was not a central performer, his first and only string quartet titled "The Adventures of Hippocrates." The quartet is a suite of five movements, each of which explores a different kind of tempo and rhythmic vehicle harkening to the original meaning of the term "movement" within a multi-part composition. As Corea emphasizes, the quartet features rhythmic styles of Jazz and Latin provenance rather than the stock of traditional classical tropes. Corea summaries the five movements as a tango, a waltz, a ballad, a rock feel and a finale with a "swiftly moving" tempo. A public rehearsal with Corea and the Orion quartet demonstrated perhaps the key challenge of the piece from a Jazz composer for a classical performing ensemble: getting the rhythmic "groove."

Much of Corea's quartet reveals a strong relationship to his characteristic progressive jazz-rock compositions and arrangements. Tight rhythms, angular lines, and almost ahead-of-the-beat percussive chords with non-resolving modal harmonies create a modern, linear music that evokes both avant-garde fusion jazz and Belá Bartók whose Mikrokosmos for piano Corea has recorded and performed. Quasi Tango, the first movement, is a clear modern abstraction of a tango even with a direct quote from kindred composer Astor Piazolla. The second part waltz is languid and haunting sharing a sensitive lyricism with the subsequent third part, the definite "slow movement" of the suite. The fourth part imbued with what Corea called a "rock feel" is like a string quartet reincarnation of a track from one of his 70's fusion albums. The fifth and final part titled Quasi Fugue shows Corea's most linear thinking in a striking movement of contrapuntal imbroglio in the finest tradition of "classical" string quartet composition. Corea has always been a composer and keyboardist with a sophisticated sense of rhythm, harmony and linear momentum. But this string quartet commission challenged Corea to project these skills onto instruments foreign to his fingers as well as splitting his keyboard conception into four separate parts. The results are intriguing, challenging and effective as so much of the great music Corea has created in his distinctive style.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.