A Tribute to Genius
A Tribute to Genius

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CCJO Big Band
CCJO Big Band

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A Tribute to Genius
A Tribute to Genius

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Thursday, February 17, 2022 | 7pm | The Redmoor (3187 Linwood Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45208)

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A Tribute to Genius: Phil DeGreg Plays Chick Corea + McCoy Tyner

Modern jazz piano has been defined by the incredible talents of a small cadre of artists, including the late pianists Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner. CCJO chairman and pianist Phil DeGreg will take center stage as he pays tribute to these departed geniuses that helped redefine the sound of contemporary jazz piano from the 60s to today.

Opening Act: Joining us to open the show will be the Winton Woods High School Jazz Band.

Piano Sponsors: Nancy & Jonathan Lippincott and Doug Lillibridge

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Artist Profile: Phil DeGreg

Phil DeGreg began playing the piano in his childhood and now performs as a jazz pianist locally, regionally and internationally. His earliest jazz influences were Bud Powell and Bill Evans, but he is accomplished in a wide range of jazz styles, ranging from traditional to bebop to Brazilian jazz. His versatility has led to professional 
performances with dozens of internationally recognized jazz artists, including Randy Brecker, Ira Sullivan, Claudio Roditi, Howard Roberts, J.J. Johnson, Scott Hamilton, Harry Allen, Dave Liebman, Conrad Herwig and many others, as well as leading and recording with his own groups. Phil DeGreg has released 12 recordings as a leader.

A native of Cincinnati, Phil completed a degree in psychology from Yale University before becoming a professional musician. After three years working and studying music in Kansas City, he finished a Masters degree at University of North Texas, and subsequently toured the world for a year with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd. Later he was the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants and was a 1996 finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. In 2016 he was inducted into the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame. 

Phil is Professor Emeritus at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, from which he retired after 27 years. He has taught for the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops since 1982. In 2008 he received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach jazz for a semester at the University of Campinas in Brazil. For more info on Phil, visit his website at phildegreg.com.

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Artist Profile: Chick Corea (bio from allmusic.com)

A masterful and creatively wide-ranging jazz pianist, Chick Corea was a celebrated performer whose influential albums found him exploring harmonically adventurous post-bop, electric fusion, Latin traditions, and classical. Initially emerging in the 1960s, Corea gained early notice for his solo albums, including 1968's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, and sideman work with Willie BoboBlue Mitchell, and Stan Getz. He joined Miles Davis' first electric ensemble and appeared on the landmark 1969 album Bitches Brew. As a leader, he built upon his experience with Davis, founding his own own innovative fusion group Return to Forever, and penning such beloved jazz standards as "Spain," "500 Miles High," "La Fiesta," and "Windows." A prolific artist, and the forth-most-nominated artist in Grammy history with over 60 nominations and 20 wins, Corea continued to release a steady stream of acclaimed, top-ten jazz charting albums throughout his career, including 1976's The Leprechaun, 1989's Chick Corea Akoustic Band, 2014's Trilogy, and 2019's Antidote.

Born Armando Anthony Corea in 1941 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Corea was first introduced to the piano around age four by his father, a Dixieland-style trumpeter. By age eight, he was also playing drums. Immersed in jazz at home, he listened to an array of artists including pianists Horace Silver and Bud Powell, who were early influences. Another influence was pianist Salvatore Sullo, with whom Corea studied classical piano and composition. As a teenager, he was a member of the local St. Rose Scarlet Lancers drum and bugle corps, and started playing his own jazz gigs. After high school, he studied briefly at Columbia University and Juilliard, before leaving school to pursue his jazz career.

Some of Corea's most formative experiences came in the early '60s playing with Latin bandleaders Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo. He also worked in small jazz groups with Blue MitchellHerbie Mann, and Stan Getz. As a leader, Corea made his recording debut with 1966's Tones for Joan's Bones. However, it was his 1968 trio release, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes that marked his arrival as one of the most gifted improvisors of his generation. The album eventually earned status as a jazz classic and in 1999 the title-track was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

After a stint with Sarah VaughanCorea joined Miles Davis's group, coming on board as Herbie Hancock's gradual replacement. He would stay with Davis from 1968 to 1970, during the trumpeter's important transitional period from acoustic post-bop to electic fusion. Davis pursuaded Corea to start playing electric piano and included him on such pivotal albums as Filles de KilimanjaroIn a Silent Way, and the landmark Bitches Brew.

Following his time with DavisCorea founded the avant-garde acoustic jazz quartet Circle, which also included Anthony BraxtonDave Holland, and Barry Altschul. He also formed a trio with Holland and Altschul, releasing 1971's Song of Singing on Blue Note. That same year, he made his ECM debut with the same group on A.R.C.. He also released to introspective solo piano sessions for the label, 1971's Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 and 1972's Piano Improvisations Vol. 2.

By the end of 1971, Corea had shifted his creative direction again, playing for a short time with Stan Getz before forming Return to Forever. The group intially started out as a Brazilian-influenced ensemble, featuring bassist Stanley Clarke, saxophonist Joe Farrell, percussionist Airto Moreira, and vocalist Flora Purim. They debuted in 1972 with the eponymous Return To Forever, hitting number eight on the Billboard Jazz chart. They returned the following year with Light as a Feather. Another top ten jazz album, it earned Corea his first two Grammy-nominations, including Best Instrumental Arrangement for the song "Spain," largely considered his best known song.

Within a year, Corea had transformed Return to Forever into an even more cutting-edge fusion ensemble, with Clarke, guitarist Bill Connors, and drummer Lenny White joining. This version of the group appeared on 1973's Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and found Corea further drawing upon his work with Miles Davis, weaving together more electric instruments. Return to Forever would see several line-up changes throughout its lifetime, including introducing a then 19-year-old guitarist Al DiMeola on 1974's Where Have I Known You Before.

 

When RTF broke up in the late '70s, Corea retained the name for some large ensemble dates with Clarke. During the next few years, he returned to acoustic playing and appeared in a variety of contexts, including separate duet tours with Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock, a quartet with Michael Brecker, trios with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, tributes to Thelonious Monk, as well as some classical music.

 

In 1985, Corea formed another benchmark fusion group which debuted on the eponymous The Elektric Band and featured bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. The same group also recorded as the Akoustic Trio for 1989's Chick Corea Akoustic Band. When Patitucci went out on his own in the early '90s, the personnel changed, but Corea continued leading stimulating groups, including a quartet with Patitucci and Bob Berg. From 1996 to 1997, Corea toured with an all-star quintet featuring Kenny Garrett and Wallace Roney that played modern versions of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk compositions as heard on Remembering Bud Powell. There were also notable sessions with vibraphonist Gary Burton, including 1997's Like Minds with Pat Metheny. Two years later, he issued his first studio album with his Origin ensemble, Change.

 

Corea began the 21st century by releasing a pair of solo piano records, Solo Piano: Originals and Solo Piano: Standards, in 2000, followed by Past, Present & Futures in 2001. Rendezvous in New York appeared in 2003, followed by To the Stars in 2004. The Ultimate Adventure was released in 2006. That same year, Corea released Super Trio with drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Christian McBride. In the spring of 2007, Corea released the duet album with banjo master Béla Fleck entitled The Enchantment on Concord. It was followed by a Japan-only six-disc box set called Five Trios in 2008 that showcased the pianist in a handful of different trio settings. The same year, Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton released their fourth offering together, The New Crystal Silence.

 

Also in 2008, Corea reunited with John McLaughlin for the first time since they'd played together with Miles Davis in the late '60s. They pulled together a band with saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Christian McBride for the recording Five Peace Band: Live (with another former Miles collaborator, Herbie Hancock, guesting on "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time"). Concord re-released Return to Forever's four albums issued between 1973 and 1976 (with CoreaWhiteClarke, and DiMeola) -- Hymn of the Seventh GalaxyWhere Have I Known You BeforeNo Mystery, and Romantic Warrior -- as a precursor for a reunion tour. This resulted in both a live album, entitled Returns, and a concert DVD. In 2009, Corea teamed with Japanese piano sensation Hiromi for Duet, followed by a live trio album entitled Forever with Clarke and White, culled from their "RTF Unplugged" tour. The two-disc set, issued by Concord in 2011, featured guest appearances by Chaka Khan, original RTF guitarist Connors, and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.

 

In 2012, Corea was busy from the start. He delivered a trio recording on Concord in January entitled Further Explorations; his sidemen were Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian (both members of various Evans ensembles). Corea: The Continents Concerto for Jazz Quintet and Chamber Orchestra was issued by Deutsche Grammophone in February. In September, another duet recording with BurtonHot House, was released by Concord. In the summer of 2013, Corea debuted his new electric band with the album The Vigil. Its members included bassist Christian McBride, drummer Marcus GilmoreTim Garland on reeds and winds, and guitarist Charles Altura. The expansive three-disc Trilogy, recorded live at stops all over the world and, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, appeared in 2014.

 

The pianist then reunited with longtime friend Béla Fleck for the 2015 duet album, Two, compiled from over seven years of their live performances together. The following year, Corea celebrated his 75th birthday with a six-week stint of shows at the Blue Note in New York city. Joined by a bevy of guests including Herbie HancockBobby McFerrinWynton MarsalisJohn McLaughlinStanley Clarke, and others, the performances were released in 2017 as part of The Musician album and documentary project. In addition, he joined longtime associate drummer Steve Gadd for Chinese Butterfly, that also featured Lionel LouekeSteve WilsonCarlitos Del Puerto, and Luisito QuinteroTrilogy 2Corea's second collection of live recordings with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, arrived in 2018.

 

For 2019's AntidoteCorea assembled an updated version of his Latin-infused octet and explored newer songs alongside material off his classic Latin-infused albums like 1976's My Spanish Heart and 1982's Touchstone. Dubbed the Spanish Heart Band, it included Madrid's Jorge Pardo on saxophone and flute, an original member of flamenco master Paco de Lucia's band. Also from the last generation of that group, Corea recruited guitarist Niño Josele. Trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and trombonist Steve Davis rounded out the horn section while the rhythm section comprised Cuban bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, percussionist Luicito Quintero, and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Flamenco dancer Nino de los Reyes and singer Ruben Blades also appeared. The album won Corea his 23 Grammy Award and first for Best Latin Jazz Album. The solo piano album, Plays, arrived in 2020 and featured interpretations of jazz standards, as well as classical pieces by MozartScriabinChopin, and others. Corea was active until his death on February 9, 2021 at age 79.

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Artist Profile: McCoy Tyner (bio from allmusic.com)

One of the most celebrated and influential jazz pianists of his generation, McCoy Tyner was known for his harmonically expansive modal voicings, commanding two-handed block-chord style, and fearless improvisational lines that touched upon African and Eastern musical traditions. Along with contemporaries Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and Chick Corea, Tyner redefined the sound of the modern jazz piano from the '60s onward, and his playing continues to guide up-and-coming musicians. Although primarily recognized for his work as a member of saxophonist John Coltrane's famed quartet with bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, Tyner distinguished himself as a leader in his own right, releasing forward-looking dates like 1967's The Real McCoy, 1972's Sahara, and 1980's Horizon. Those albums found him building upon his time with Coltrane, having already contributed to innovative albums like 1961's Africa/Brass, 1961's My Favorite Things, and 1965's A Love Supreme. Throughout his career, Tyner continued to push himself, arranging for his big band and releasing Grammy-winning albums with 1987's Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane and 1992's The Turning Point. Active well into his seventies, Tyner remained a vital performer, becoming an NEA Jazz Master in 2002 and winning another Grammy for 2004's Illuminations with Christian McBride and Terence Blanchard. More engaging collaborations followed, including 2007's McCoy Tyner Quartet with Joe Lovano and 2008's Guitars with Bill Frisell, Béla Fleck, Derek Trucks, and others. He further showcased his virtuosity on 2009's Solo: Live from San Francisco and 2013's A Pair of Pianos with Larry Vuckovich.

 

Tyner was born in 1938 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest of three children. His father, Jarvis Tyner, worked in a company that made medicated cream and sang in a church vocal group. His mother, Beatrice (Stevenson) Tyner worked as a beautician. It was his mother who first encouraged him to play piano, starting him on private lessons at age 13 and letting him practice on the piano in her salon. Tyner excelled quickly and further honed his musical skills while attending the West Philadelphia Music School and the Granoff School of Music. As a teenager, he came into contact with his neighbor, bebop pianist Bud Powell, who served as an early influence. Another early influence was Thelonious Monk, whose percussive, architectural sound would remain a touchstone for Tyner for years to come. Around age 17, he converted to Islam via the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and subsequently changed his name to Sulieman Saud (although he continued to perform as McCoy Tyner). It was during this period in the '50s that he gained yet more attention, playing around Philadelphia with artists like Lee Morgan and brothers Percy and Jimmy Heath, as well as leading his R&B group the Houserockers. He also befriended saxophonist John Coltrane, then a member of trumpeter Miles Davis' band. In 1959, Tyner joined saxophonist Benny Golson and trumpeter Art Farmer in their group the Jazztet, and made his recorded debut with the group on 1960's Meet the Jazztet. He also appeared on early albums by Freddie Hubbard and Julian Priester.

 

However, after six months with the Jazztet, he left to join Coltrane's soon-to-be classic quartet with bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. From 1960 to 1965, he toured and recorded almost non-stop with Coltrane, applying his powerful sound, and distinctive block chord style to such landmark albums as 1961's Africa/Brass, 1961's My Favorite Things, 1961's Olé Coltrane, 1962's Coltrane, and 1965's monumental A Love Supreme. Along with a deep creative and familial bond, Coltrane's quartet with Tyner found them embracing an innovative mix of Eastern musical ideas, including pentatonic scales and flowing modal structures that evoked the quartet's deep spiritual leanings.

Tyner also made his debut as leader during his time with Coltrane, beginning with 1962's Inception on Impulse Records, with bassist Art Davis and fellow Coltrane bandmate Elvin Jones. A handful of equally engaging small-group sessions followed for the label, including 1963's Reaching Fourth with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Henry Grimes, 1964's Today and Tomorrow with saxophonists John Gilmore and Frank Strozier, trumpeter Thad Jones, bassist Butch Warren, and Elvin Jones, and 1965's McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington (again with his Coltrane section partners Jones and Garrison). He also recorded notable albums with Joe Henderson, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, and Wayne Shorter.

In 1965, Tyner parted ways with Coltrane to further explore his own music. The move coincided with an overall shift in American popular music as people moved away from jazz and toward rock and funk sounds. Tyner weathered this change, taking on sideman jobs with Ike & Tina Turner and Jimmy Witherspoon. Despite his difficulties, he remained creatively focused and recorded a series of forward-thinking albums for Blue Note, including 1967's The Real McCoy with Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones. A year later, he returned with Expansions, an even more accomplished session that showcased a larger group with trumpeter Woody Shaw, altoist Gary Bartz, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter on cello, bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Freddie Waits. He also continued to be an in-demand session player, appearing on albums with Donald Byrd, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Hutcherson, and others.

While remaining committed to a largely acoustic-based sound, Tyner's work continued to expand in the fusion era. He signed with the Milestone label and embarked on a period of increased activity. In 1970, he released Extensions, an all-star sextet session that found him working with Alice Coltrane on harp, altoist Gary Bartz, Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones. He picked up his first-ever Grammy nomination for 1972's Sahara, a groundbreaking production that found him exploring a mix of avant-garde and African-influenced sounds alongside saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist Calvin Hill, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. The album also showcased Tyner's skills beyond piano, playing flute, percussion, and the Japanese Koto. A flow of adventurous, eclectic albums followed throughout the decade, many featuring his quartet with saxophonist Azar Lawrence, including 1972's Song for My Lady, 1973's Enlightenment, and 1974's Atlantis. 1976's Trident with Ron Carter and Elvin Jones was Tyner's first trio album in over a decade and found him playing harpsichord and celeste, as well piano. It was also during this period that he began writing for more varied ensembles, including strings on 1976's Fly with the Wind, and a horn section and vocal group on 1977's Inner Voices, and big band on 1981's 13th House.

 

Tyner next signed to Columbia for 1981's La Leyenda de La Hora, featuring flutist Hubert Laws, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, saxophonists Paquito d'Rivera and Chico Freeman, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and a seven-piece string section. A year later, he released Looking Out, which included guest appearances by vocalist Phyllis Hyman and guitarist Carlos Santana. He then moved to Elektra for 1984's quintet date Dimensions, featuring altoist Gary Bartz, violinist John Blake, bassist John Lee, and drummer Wilby Fletcher. A collaboration with saxophonist Jackie McLean, It's About Time, arrived in 1985. Tyner also led a trio with bassist Avery Sharpe and drummer Louis Hayes, releasing albums like 1985's Major Changes with Frank Morgan, 1986's Double Trios, and 1987's Bon Voyage. Also in 1987, he won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group for Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane, which featured bassist Cecil McBee, drummer Roy Haynes, and saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and David Murray. Also in the late '80s, he made a return to Blue Note with three solo piano outings recorded at New York's Merkin Hall, Revelations, Things Ain't What They Used to Be, and Soliloquy.

Into the '90s, Tyner stayed active with his trio, paying homage to the Coltrane with his 1991 trio album, Remembering John. He also continued working with his big band, taking home the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance for 1991's The Turning Point and 1993's Journey. There were also vigorous dates with Joe Henderson, David Murray, Bobby Hutcherson, Christian McBride, and others. In 1995, he paired with saxophonist Michael Brecker for Infinity, taking home the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance (Individual or Group). The album also garnered Brecker the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for his work on their cover of Coltrane's "Impressions." Tyner rounded out the decade with a Burt Bacharach-themed album, a trio album with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster, and an all-star Latin and Afro-Cuban album featuring players like Claudio Roditi, Steve Turre, Dave Valentin, and more.

 

More acoustic bop sessions followed in the 2000s, beginning with Jazz Roots: McCoy Tyner Honors Jazz Piano Legends of the 20th Century on Telarc in 2000, followed by McCoy Tyner Plays John Coltrane at the Village Vanguard in 2001 alongside bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster. He also picked up yet more accolades, including being named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2002. In 2004, he picked up his fifth Grammy Award for Illuminations, which found him leading a quintet with Terence Blanchard, Gary Bartz, Christian McBride, and Lewis Nash. The following year, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. Another studio album, McCoy Tyner Quartet, arrived in 2007 and featured saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist McBride, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Guitars arrived in 2008 and found Tyner leading a trio with Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette, and showcasing a handful of genre-crossing string-specialists, including Marc Ribot, John Scofield, banjo player Béla Fleck, Derek Trucks, and Bill Frisell. The pianist was again on his own for 2009's Solo: Live from San Francisco before pairing with Larry Vuckovich for 2013's duo session A Pair of Pianos. Tyner died on March 6, 2020 at his home in New Jersey. He was 81 years old.