Hello Fine Folks!
Coming to you at the same time Chick Corea and Gary Burton are entering the air space over here at SpragueLand. It’s Native Sense and it’s pristine lines and grooving rhythm. These guys together make the music levitate and it’s a joy to soak it up.
This leads us right into this week’s edition of Live(ish) From SpragueLand.
Live(ish) at SpragueLand Episode 23
My Spanish Heart
Peter Sprague Plays Chick Corea
Sunday, September 19, 2021
For this livestream we’re celebrating the great music that Chick composed. Some of the songs that we’ll play include “My Spanish Heart,” a new reworked PS version of “Spain,” “Tap Step,” and “Samba L.A.” featuring our special remote guest Aubrey Johnson phoning it in from NYC. As we like to do, we’ll put a few tunes together for a medley of sorts plus Digital Brian will share his research findings for all things Chick.
Here’s the lineup for the show:
Peter Sprague — guitar
Tripp Sprague — sax and flute
Danny Green — piano
Mack Leighton — bass
Duncan Moore — drums
and special guest Aubrey Johnson – vocals
I’d say one of the most influential musicians that’s helped shape my arc in music is jazz pianist Chick Corea. He and his music have been there right from the beginning. I’d buy his recordings, study his tunes, transcribe his solos, and read his interviews to learn more about how he viewed life and music.
Back when I was a student at Interlochen Arts Academy I wrote Chick a note requesting the music to his tune “What Game Shall We Play Today?” I also let him know (jokingly) that if he was ever looking for a guitarist, I was most likely available for the gig. He sent the music and wrote back, “we’ll see, won’t we.”
Move ahead a few years, on my third record for Xanadu Records (Bird Raga) I played a twenty-minute solo guitar medley of Chick’s tunes. Chick agreed to write the liner notes for the album and it turned out he liked the way I played. First, he asked me to play at his then famous annual Valentines Day party. The parties were a combination of incredible desserts, socializing, and then an unforgettable talent show featuring the cast of the amazing artists present. We’re talking Al Jarreau, Herbie Hancock, Roger Williams (“Autumn Leaves”), Wayne Shorter, Steve Kujala, Hubert Laws, Victor Feldman, a young John Pattituci, poets and actors, Chick’s daughter Lelee, Chick with a mini orchestra, and the surfer from Del Mar, me! The event took place at Chick’s Griffith Park castle complete with two grand pianos in a cathedral like living room.
Either Chick liked what I played that night or he at least dug my energy. Either way, he then hired me to play some gigs with his band. We rehearsed for a couple of days, and I debuted with the band for a series of concerts at Disneyland on the Memorial Day weekend. In a review the following day in the Los Angeles Times, jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote about me,”…One of the emergent great guitarists.” A pretty stellar moment for the kid who got to play with his hero!
Memorable Chick moment number two found us joined by Al Jarreau playing for thousands of folks at the outdoor mall in Washington D.C.. When I came out on that stage and looked out at the sea of people, trading licks on “Spain” with Chick Corea and Al Jarreau, I knew this was some magic territory and I took it all in.
In 1989 Chick scored a movie sound track for The Cat Chasers, starring Kelly McGillis. I was part of the band including Vinnie Callouta on drums, Chick, Pattittuci, and Steve Kujala on flute. We recorded some classic Chick Spanish-flamenco tunes.
Around this time I began organizing Chick’s music into book form for publishing. He liked the fact that I knew his music inside and out so he’d turn me loose to make sense of a pile of scores that needed updating in the process of making their way to the record. I’d take his sheet music, listen to the record and modify what was new. I would then put it on the computer, instill as much clarity and intuition as I could, and then bounce the new scores back and forth a few times until everyone was satisfied. I completed 6 books for him (all available from Hal Leonard Publishing) plus my own transcription book of Chick’s piano solos called Jazz Solos of Chick Corea published by Sher Music. In 1992 Chick was kind enough to send some praise my way for the books we worked on. “Peter Sprague’s excellence as a musician is well demonstrated in his live and recorded performances. He has had the patience and musicality to take my original scores and, together with the recorded renditions of these compositions, make final drafts that have become the last few Elektric Band music books. They are the most accurate music books that I’ve published. I don’t know anyone I would trust more to correctly transcribe my improvisations.” That’s a big deal. Thanks Chick!
One last Chick Corea story and this one centers around GRP Records. They we’re doing their first GRP All-Star Big Band recording and they wanted Chick to play and arrange his tune “Spain” for the big band. Chick had a conflict in his schedule and asked if I’d arrange the tune for the band. I leaned into it, spent two weeks figuring out who should play what and when and then made my way to the only rehearsal to see what the piece sounded like. I don’t know how to conduct but there I was, flailing and directing traffic in front of the likes of Lee Ritenour, Dave Weckl, Tom Scott, Ernie Watts, Kenny Kirkland, and the list goes on. I actually didn’t have much to do directing these great musicians. Right out of the gate the band was on fire. They recorded the tune the next day and it’s on the GRP All-Star Big Band CD and video.
Chick left us this last year and we’re missing him dearly. He played up a storm all the way to the end.
Hope to see you at the show!
Price of admission? Actually the concert is free but we will have a “virtual tip jar” complete with PayPal, Zelle and Venmo info for you to donate whatever you feel good about. Also, old reliable snail mailing checks works too. You folks have been super generous with this and it makes us happy.
(It’ll show up as Satyam Music, that’s my music company)
Zelle: Peter Sprague firstname.lastname@example.org
mail checks via snail mail to: Peter Sprague
311 East Glaucus St.
Encinitas, CA 92024
A few notes:
You don’t have to watch the show live. The same YouTube link will bring up the recording for you to view anytime.
If you do watch it live (and we recommend this), you can participate in the live chat during the concert as long as you have a YouTube account.
Click here https://youtu.be/MEaCbZ-DlqQ to watch a vid, leading you through the easy process of creating a YouTube account.
Maybe do this before the concert begins.
If you do have an account and you’re logged in, you can type something fun into the chat box and that’s how we create modern day jazz community in this era of the pandemic. Maybe start with something simple like “Hi, this is Lisa from Wyoming” or “Hi, I’m Reggie from Portland.” By doing this we’ve got an app that will magically take your name and location and drop a pin on a spinning globe. During the show we’ll visit all of the listeners and say hi and marvel at your exotic places of residence. No worries about privacy…How many Lisa’s are in the entire state of Wyoming? Or “Reggie’s in Portland, Maine?