Chick Corea & Bela Fleck 1.16.14

Newman Center
University of Denver
Denver, CO

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)

The University of Denver sat quiet following a day of classes that included Bela Fleck conducting a workshop for music students. The Newman Center was illuminated in anticipation of the evening's performance. The grand lobby with its high ceiling, large archways and glorious stairs was staffed with two bars that included a selection of beer, wine and mixed drinks. Additionally there was a full four window box office and a band merchandise table. Elderly folks mingled as the the seven o'clock hour approached. A sort of chime sounded alerting folks that the show would be starting as they poured into the main concert hall. Ushers lead the way to assigned seats with fantastic vantages of what would be a most technical performance. The lights dimmed as a gentleman took the stage to set some parameters and fill in the capacity crowd on a plethora of upcoming events. Shortly to follow he introduced the evening's featured masters.

The duo took the stage in a jovial fashion, joking about how Chick was excited and the root of his excitement was that Bela would be having no fun. Following an exaggerated shuffling of papers and some avant garde taps on the banjo, the show was underway. The mood was light, though the music was heavy technically and emotionally, digging deep into incredible emotion filled melodies and progressions. First set selections included a song for Bela's wife entitled "Waltse For Abby," as well as a song Bela wrote in the early hours of a morning in an airport awaiting a flight home to be with his newly born son, "Juno." Through mind blowing compositions came light-hearted banter, presumably to balance out the somewhat inaccessible nature of the classical genre of music. The duo also performed a song that chick wrote to perform with Bela, "Joban Dna Nopia," who communicated how much that meant to him. Chick suggested that their melodies were illegal, to which Bela replied "A lot of things are legal in Denver." Almost an hour on the dot after the the set began, it came to a close with folks shuffling back out into the lobby. While many ordered another round of drinks, some remained in their seats instead opting for a good book or a few minutes to rest their eyes.

Set two opened with a great story about Stevie Wonder recommending to Chick that Chick play some of Stevie's material. The result that evening was a Bela and Chick's take on "Overjoyed." Chick also introduced a piece by a composer that John McLaughlin had brought to his attention, Henri Dutilleux. The combination of intertwining melodies and rhythms from such proficient musicians captivated the sold out room at all times, commanding gasps from the crowd. Selections from their album included the titled track, "The Enchantment," as well as Chick's "Children Song #6," and the set closer, Bela's "Spectacle." The duo returned to the stage for their encore and kept the momentum going with continued musical risks executed with ease.

Through two one hour sets, Chick and Bela performed masterful compositions to a sold out and appreciative crowd. Each arrangement demanded an incredible level of focus, knowledge and intuition. The overall performance was casual greatness, as many had never witnessed such skill delivered so nonchalantly. Without a missed note or a noticeable missed cue, Chick and Bela engaged one and other evoking a level of connection and chemistry typically unseen. The result was nothing short of spectacular. As the crowd filed out of the auditorium, there was a certain excitement in the air. Regardless of age or musical background, the evening's performance may have been the performance of the year if not a lifetime.

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