photo: Joseph Alessi | credit Benjamin Maas

Chick Corea. 27-time Grammy-winning jazz legend, pianist, and composer. He gave Spain, Windows, Armando’s Rhumba, and countless other musical masterpieces to the world during his life, but his virtuosity didn’t stop at jazz…

Corea was also highly regarded for his work in contemporary classical music, his most recent being a Concerto for Trombone, which received its world premiere studio recording from PARMA’s Grammy-winning team last week in Las Vegas NV.

Performed by trombonist Joseph Alessi and the University of Nevada Las Vegas Wind Orchestra led by conductor Tom Leslie, Corea’s Concerto for Trombone will be released on PARMA’s Navona Records label alongside works by composers Jorge Machain and Hugo Montenegro.

Joseph Alessi and the University of Nevada Las Vegas Wind Orchestra led by conductor Tom Leslie | credit Benjamin Maas

The piece, composed shortly before his untimely passing in February of 2021, was written specifically for Alessi, who has given numerous live performances of the concerto with the New York Philharmonic, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra over the past few years. It’s the final completed work of the late jazz master and a cherished piece of literature in Alessi’s eyes.

“It’s a great honor for me to perform,” Alessi told music journalist Nahoko Gotoh in an interview with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. Alessi went on to cite Corea as “one of the greatest musicians and composers on earth. What he wrote is not easy, but I think it sounds really terrific on the trombone.”

As principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Alessi first approached Corea to commission the concerto in August 2017. Plans to have Corea take residency with the New York Philharmonic and premiere the piece in 2021 quickly followed.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and Corea’s passing, the premiere never took place, “which is really tragic,” says Alessi. “There’s a really nice piano part in the trombone concerto and Chick was supposed to play that with us in New York.”

From left: John Dickson, arranger/pianist, Joseph Alessi, trombone | credit Benjamin Maas

The piece has been handled with great care since its inception, shepherded from score to stage to studio by Alessi, and arranged for wind band by pianist John Dickson, a close friend and collaborator of the late Corea. Now in the hands of the UNLV Wind Orchestra, who’ve received international acclaim for their fresh and creative approach to music making, the piece will be released later this year for digital streaming on all platforms.

Performing contemporary repertoire in addition to classical masterworks, the orchestra has been responsible for commissioning and premiering numerous significant new works by America’s finest young contemporary composers including Eric Whitacre, Wendell Yuponce, Jonathon Newman, Steven Bryant, Jim Bonney, Corey Hirsch, Paul Seitz, Nathan Tanouye, Kenneth Froelich, and Wataru Hokoyama.