It was fitting Chick Corea's Freedom Band, which features Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Roy Haynes, opened Monday night's Botanic Gardens show with a tune from Corea's Remembering Bud Powell album, as all four musicians were on the 1997 recording. Since then, they've played together in various incarnations, including the Five Peace Band, who played at the Paramount Theatre last year. And with Haynes, the legendary 85-year-old drummer who's played with some the finest in the business, including Powell, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, on board, it was a meeting of some of the heaviest jazz cats around.
Before going into second tune of the night, Corea, who just celebrated his 69th birthday last Saturday, talked about seeing George Shearing at gig in New York. Shearing, who knew Corea was in the audience, said in his English accent, "Ladies and Gentlemen, there's something that Chick and I have in common. We both do 'Windows.'"
With that, Corea laid down the intro to his tune "Windows," which he and Haynes also cut on 1998's Like Minds with Pat Metheny and Gary Burton. After Haynes came in swinging gently, Garrett came in and took the melody on and then turned out a damn fine solo punctuated by his signature staccato attack.
A few tunes later, Corea laid down the groundwork on solo piano for what eventually became the ballad "My One and Only Love." Corea, Garrett and McBride all delivered some gorgeous solos, and notched things up a bit on Miles Davis' "All Blues," with Corea recalling McCoy Tyner a bit during his solo. Midway through Garrett's solo, he kept a trill going for a short eternity inspiring a mighty applause from crowd.
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After closing their set with fiercely swinging tune, the band got a standing ovation, and then launched into Thelonious Monk's blues-based "Bluehawk." Corea absolutely killed it on his solo, dropping in a quick quote from Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle," as did Garrett. By this time, some of the folks in the audience were standing right in front of the stage.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Although they might be from different generations, each of these cats can be considered legendary. Random Detail: Haynes was sporting some killer shades. By the Way: According to Corea's web site, he's writing new music for this group.