In reading some of the innumerable tributes this weekend to my friend Chick Corea, I see that my own experiences with him were far from singular; like many who knew him, I was always a little surprised that he cared enough to maintain the friendship, that this legend, this artist for the ages, would benefit from spending any time with me.
We met in the late eighties, at a benefit concert we were both involved in. He was the headliner, my friends in Interplay and I were the improv group that was also on the bill. For one unforgettable number, my friends Christopher and Sisu improvised a song accompanied by Chick.
Years later he extended an invitation for Tamra and I to see him perform at the Blue Note in New York where we were living. We had a wonderful time there and solidified the friendship even more.
Over the years I would encounter Chick in various performing venues, where we were on the same bill for charity events and palled around backstage. His easy and playful friendship, as well as his willingness to exchange points of view about art, about comedy and performing were always a gift to me that I treasured.
I many times had the good fortune of sitting with Chick and sharing deep conversations about art and life, the memories of which I will always cherish. Again, the idea that he would be interested in my opinions about anything was always a surprise.
I consider Chick to be the ultimate performing artist. I will marvel forever at the creativity, deliberateness and delicacy of his playing, but also at the intention; he never did anything in his art without a purpose, one statement of which was “to ease the effect of time on the audience.”
Chick could travel to any far-flung place on earth and have a wonderful effect on an audience, whether they spoke English or not. That, I realize, is a tremendous skill, born of a deep and honest desire to better the lives of strangers.
He was also a generous collaborator with other musicians, creating ensembles, bands and groups which he managed brilliantly as a leader and ensemble member.
On a night in 2013 when I was on TV performing impressions at Radio City Music Hall, immediately afterward the broadcast I looked with surprise at my phone and saw that Chick was calling me. He congratulated me– “Man, you were really blowin’! I was so surprised that Chick Corea even existed in the same universe as America’s Got Talent. His considerateness was very moving.
When he passed last week, it was another surprise. Like many, I only saw Chick as the immortal artist he is, not the Earth-bound physical form that he used to interact with his keyboard and bring happiness to the planet.
The great men and women we encounter in a lifetime change us forever. Often, as in the case of Chick Corea, they do it by not changing us at all, but by validating who we really are, by speaking to us as fellow artists and lending to our lives a richness that cannot be quantified.
Bon voyage, my friend. I know the tears of loss of today will be the tears of delight in future times.
To find out more about Chick and to order some of his phenomenal recordings, please visit www.chickcorea.com
Jim Meskimen is an award winning American actor, voice artist, impressionist, fine-artist, and comedian. Visit: https://www.JimMeskimen.com
This content is © 2021 Jim Meskimen, all rights reserved.
Hollywood Sentinel, 2021