Chick and Me! (English translated)

"CHICK & ME"(Translated by Koji Yagi from my Japanese blog)
Chick Corea. Today he’s an incredibly close friend of mine, but I have a long history up to now with him to tell you.

I’ve been his big, big fan since 1980’s. His CD album ”FRIENDS” "WORKS" has been my bible.
It was duo live with Gary Burton at Blue Note Fukuoka that I heard him live for the first time.
So many CD’s of his I’ve been listening to.
I met him first ( just as one of his fans) in 2000, when I was studying at University of Toronto.
There was a concert featuring music from his CD “ORIGIN”, which I attended alone.
As soon as seated, I noticed a marimba on stage. Wondering who’s going to play that, I was so anxious. Towards the end of the concert, Chick started playing “WIGWAM” on marimba by himself, to my surprise, doubling piano.
I was extremely excited. So excited that I immediately bought a CD after concert and joined the row for his autograph. The row was very long. It took me more than an hour to reach him.
Timidly handing over my CD album “MITSUE”, ‘Chick, I’m a marimba player. So moved to hear you play marimba.’ said I. He replied,
"Marimba is one of my favorite musical instruments."

’ It was the very time when having Chick write some marimba piece for me became one of my big dreams.
2005: I met Steve Gadd, Richard Stoltzman and Eddie Gomez.

2006: Eddie Gomez joined Chick Corea Trio at Jazz Alley in Seattle.
I went there and Eddie introduced me to Chick at dressing room.
Now I wonder if he had started diet at that time. He said he won’t eat anything, but he was quite happy about premium NORI (seaweed laver) brought from Japan, and ate it there. So funny.

I gave him my signature model mallets. I still remember I was so glad he liked them.
(I was very delighted to find them in Chick’s house in Florida five years later.)
2007: I went to Chick Corea Trio concert (Anthony Jackson, Steve Gadd) at Blue Note, NY.
At that time Steve introduced me to Chick, who had faint memory of me, ‘Mika on Marimba, right?’
2008: There was a show of Chick and Eddie Gomez at Berklee, Boston.
I attended with Richard and his brother Kent ( before we got married).

As Richard had played with Chick 20+ years back at Tokyo Music Joy, Chick was overjoyed to see Richard again when we met him at dressing room.
 I still remember clearly now that Chick said, ‘Dick, I love your Mozart best in the world.

As Chick gave me his E-mail address, I was getting in touch with him from time to time sending him my DVD with Steve & Eddie and my CD Album “MIKARIMBA”.
Each of my e-mail always ended with message which read ‘I’m dreaming that you could write music for me.’

June, 2011. Event of Fate?: I heard from Fred Sherry, cello player and Richard’s close friend that one-week recording session of CD album ”The CONTINENTS” - Chick’s second orchestral project, would be held at Manhattan Center, NY.
Fred was looking for orchestra players. I asked Richard to join the session as a clarinet player. (He had never played in the orchestra before) He was available for the period fortunately and joined very reluctantly, lol.

Chick was surprised to find Richard seated as an orchestra member, and so thankful that he added solo part for Richard.
I was so very lucky to be able to observe the whole session. Thanks, Richard.
Steven Epstein was producer for the recording. I met him there for the first time.

And it was also during this recording session that I became so acquainted with Gayle, Chick’s lovely wife.
The last day of recording happened to be Chick’s 70th birthday.
I suggested we have a birthday party at my apartment.
Chick and Gayle are both vegetarians. No salt, no oil, no gluten, etc. I managed to prepare all the dish under such severe restrictions.

Gayle gave me her recipe for Chick’s favorite cake. It took the whole night for Richard and Marin, my daughter to make it. We had to grate many kind of fruits and vegetables. Such a hard work, but we made it successfully. I’m still thankful to Richard and my daughter. Invited to the party were Chick, Gayle, Steven(conductor), Marcus,Fred and a few of very close friends only.

Chick tried my marimba and was amazed by its tone quality.
I played, too and it turned into a session. That was the very historical moment in my life. Party ended in very happy and friendly atmosphere.

In the elevator Chick said to me suddenly, ‘Mika, I’ll write marimba music for you. I can’t promise you when because I have a lot of projects going on. But I definitely will.’
I had already told Chick at the Manhattan center recording session that I’d love to play the third movement of his first piano concerto as a ‘marimba concerto’.
Steven, conductor, brought Chick’s autographic score to my apartment. I had to take hundreds of photo copies at the business center of the building.

A good memory.
Based on this score, piano solo was transcribed for marimba.
It was premiered next year in Mexico City with Xalapa Symphony, and this year recorded for the first time with Boston Modern Orchestra.

Early December, 2011:
Finally e-mail inquiry came from Chick.
" I’m going to write new piece for you. How would you like that?"
I simply replied. ‘Featuring marimba and clarinet, make it groovy, please."
Gayle was sending me e-mails often telling me how composition was going on. ‘Mika, it’s going to be a sweet one.’
December 31, 2011: Demo tape of his new piece “MARIKA” finally came. ‘How do you like that, Mika?’ I’ll never forget that I listened to the tape over and over again in the bus from NY to Boston in tears of joy – my dream come true!

January 1, 2012: I’ve got Sheet music for marimba and clarinet. Title was at first “MARIKA” ( a coinage from Mika and Marimba) but I asked him to change to “MARIKA GROOVE”.

On Jan. 3, Richard gave several concerts at Phoenix, Arizona, visited Steve Gadd at home.
He listened to the demo and liked that, saying ‘It’s very nice.’

After Arizona we went to John and JoAnne Hamann's house in Florida.
Got in touch with Chick and Gayle, who invited me to their home.
We had a wonderful time overnight in their gorgeous house in Clear Water.

Surprisingly enough Chick had two marimbas! Then I took some lesson for MARIKA GROOVE.
I also enjoyed session with him in wonderful studio of his house.

We spent the whole night talking about music. Chick showed me his atelier, and gave me two of his painting.

It was very impressive that Chick was listening to Bartok in the car.

Early February, 2012: Recording of “MARIKA GROOVE” Chick wrote for me was done at Avatar Studio, NY with Steven Gadd, Eddie Gomez and Richard Stoltzman, producer being Steve Gadd, engineer Jay Messina. Chick Corea was supervising. (Mixing was redone again and again by Chick up to 17 times!)

April 4, 2012: World premier by recording members at Carnegie Weill Hall. Gayle came on Chick’s behalf.

 From that time we became close friends. Whenever Chick had gigs in Boston, he would let me know and we had dinner together after concert.
I was even invited to Chick’s classmate gathering and annual family dinner in Boston, his home town.
I became his family member. Gayle even came to my house.
Gayle, She is a wonderful woman who is really talented.

May 12, 2012: Our wedding day. On time congrats message came from Chick and Gayle. What a
May 30, 2013: We gave our recital at Carnegie Weill Hall, NY. Gayle and Harlem Quartet played together, Chick joined as a special guest.

He was giving me direct lesson before the concert.

2015: Chick and Gayle were trying to introduce me to various musicians whenever possible.
When I played Chick’s works for marimba, he usually sent original music via e-mail, but occasionally he gave me printed music directly to me as a surprise gift.

September 12: Kumamoto Red Music Festival was held to celebrate my 50th birthday. Greetings came from Chick in South America by special arrangement of Richard and Mr. Kundo Koyama.
I was so excited!!

April 10 &12, 2016: Recorded Concerto No.1 by Chick at WBGH Studio in Boston.
Date of recording was set on the same day and next as Chick’s gig in Boston expecting he might come.
A week before recording I dared to send Chick video clip of the most difficult solo passage in the concerto to his mobile phone.

‘Mika, You are Samurai Marimba Warrior conquering the 3rd movement trickery! So I can be in Boston at your service on Monday the 11th after 2pm- If that is still something you’d like to do.’ replied he.
I jumped up for joy!! He did come to the studio, and moreover his masterpiece “SEA JOURNEY” was to be recorded as improvisation for trio (marimba, clarinet and piano).

I am so lucky!!!
The music Chick Corea composed for me is real treasure in my marimba life. Wonderful melody, unique harmony, complicated rhythm (Groove). It’s all there. I have no doubt that Chick’s music would be very impressive not only to performers but also to audience, and that his music would fit marimba definitely well.
I can’t still believe my dream come true.
I don’t think I can thank Gayle san,Richard and friends enough for their kind support and assistance extended toward me.

 I’ll keep on working harder to be able to play Chick’s music much better.
Chick promised me to write a solo piece for marimba.
I look forward to that.
Chick will be my hero forever.

Love, Mika
*英訳をして下さったKoji Yagiさん本当に有難うございました。貴重なノートができました。リチャードも読んで気に入ってました。素晴らしいです!感謝感激です。Love,MIKA




Premier Marimbist Mika Stoltzman Returns to Carnegie Hall for the Eleventh Time in One-Night Only Concert May 2, 2023!

新譜CD”Sprit of Chick Corea"