A Tribute to Freedom
by Andrew Milne
n two outstanding concerts in Vienna and Berlin hosted by the United States government recently, American jazz virtuoso Chick Corea effortlessly demonstrated the reason for his enduring popularity internationally. Intermixed with his own compositions, Corea put his indelible brand on classics from Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.
In Vienna, Corea was joined for several numbers by vocalists Gayle Moran, his wife, and Mark Janicello, acclaimed Austrian tenor. Guests at the official residence of U.S. Ambassador Kathryn Walt Hall in November included Members of Parliament, representatives of several government ministries as well as religious and human rights organizations, and prominent names from the art and music world. Journalists from every major news media attended as well as the cultural press.
Coreas concert was sponsored by the United States State Department as part of an initiative to raise awareness of the importance of artistic and religious freedom in all countries of the world.
Man, to be truly happy, must be free, said Corea. Jazz and indeed all art forms have always provided our most direct and aesthetic expressions of freedom. Music and art are mankinds universal languagea communication that people everywhere can understand and enjoy.
The concerts title, A Tribute to Freedom, was also a tribute to those whose vigilance and courage make freedom of belief and expression possible, said Corea.
The jazz master is an eloquent spokesman on the subject, having experienced discrimination first hand. I have been a professional musician since the 1960s, traveling the world composing, performing, recording and teaching music, he said. For the first time in all my experience, I was denied the right to perform my music in Germany in 1993 due to my personal religious beliefs.
A long-time member of the Church of Scientology, Corea is not alone in experiencing discrimination in Germany. Others have suffered denial of the right to perform, boycotts of performances and threats, intimidation and vilification.
First the right of a jazz musician to express his art is denied. Then what? asked Corea. The novels of a Jewish writer? The exhibitions of a Buddhist painter? The poetry of a Jehovahs Witness?
Corea said he has always recognized that it is only a small minority who stir up intolerance, and will continue performing in Germany and encouraging Germans to respect freedom and human rights.
Berlin Officials Applaud Initiative
Coreas Berlin performance took place at the famous Traenenpalast [Palace of Tears] the day before his Vienna concert. And as in Vienna, the concert was attended by government officials, media, community leaders, representatives of religious groups and others concerned with human rights.
The Traenenpalast concert was officially opened and concluded by Mark Dillon, the Cultural Attache of the U.S. Embassy in Germany. He expressed U.S. State Department endorsement of freedom of artistic expression and support of Coreas right to perform in Berlin, and encouraged his speedy return.
From the responses in Berlin and Vienna, there is no doubt that Corea will be made more than welcome in both countries. Berliner Zeitung applauded the master who played in all genres ... fusion, free jazz, Latin, classicChick Corea seemed to create in all directions according to his mood.
It was apparent that many individuals, in both Austria and Germany, are boycotting the political assault against artistic and religious freedom.