The Five Peace Band featuring Chick Corea & John McLaughlin
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
After Chick Corea and John McLaughlin played on Miles Davis's jazz-fusion-birthing albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, McLaughlin formed Mahavishnu Orchestra and Corea started Return to Forever. Both bands helped propel the fusion movement throughout the '70s. So it would seem logical that the two might dig into the fusion bag on their tour with alto player Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride and former Zappa drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. And judging from the show's opener, McLaughlin's song "Raju," it seemed like that was the direction they were headed in. Colaiuta laid down a thick groove that paved the way for extended solos by Corea, McLaughlin and Garrett.
The players dipped into an entirely different bag on Corea's new composition "The Disguise." Corea opened the song on solo piano before Colaiuta and McBride joined in, and McLaughlin and Garrett interjected occasional unison lines during Corea's fluid solo explorations. McLaughlin then came in blasting a flurry of notes, which seemed a bit out of context on the somewhat subtle tune. Sure, a lot of people know the jaw-dropping skills the guitarist has, but it just seemed like he could've been a bit more reserved on the song.
McLaughlin did lay back a bit on his song "New Blues, Old Bruise," which Corea said was the most challenging song of the night. During the first part of his solo, McLaughlin tapped into his bluesier, soulful side, playing slower and more deliberately. As the intensity built up, he switched back into machine-gun mode. Garrett's solo was powerful and bold, with stretched-out notes, piercing, clear notes, and occasional climbs into the upper register to blast out wails.
Since each player got ample time to stretch out, the first three songs added up to about an hour of music. After an intermission, the band came back with McLaughlin's "Senor C.S.," which featured some deft Jaco Pastorius-inspired bass playing by McBride. During Garrett's solo, Colaiuta really lit a fire, speeding up the tempo before bringing it back down at the beginning of Corea's keyboard solo. The tune was an amazing display of dynamics with buildups, crescendos and every player completely on his game. Near the end of the tune, McLaughlin, Corea and Garrett trading fours, each firing out intense barrages of notes.
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After the towering strength of "Senor C.S.," Corea played an extended piano intro to his song "Hymn to Andromeda." He'd reach inside the piano, muffling the strings or tapping on them with a mallet. McBride played along, watching Corea intently until playing a beautiful bass solo using his bow. The two played for what seemed like close to ten minutes before the rest of the band joined in. About half way through the cut, the tempo ramped up just before Garrett's solo. The song, fueled by a heavy Colaiuta groove and Corea's angular comping, was the ideal vehicle for Garrett to dig into , and he dug in deep. He unleashed a hell of a solo with Coltrane-esque intensity.
McBride then opened Jackie McClean's song "Dr. Jackle" with an upright-bass solo where his fingers were moving so fast it sounded like he was playing with a slap-back echo pedal. After Colaiuta and Corea joined in, the trio started swinging with heavy vigor over the blues progression.
While the guys ended the second set swinging something fierce, for the encore Corea and McLaughlin went back to the birth of fusion for a take on Davis's "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time." The pianist and guitarist sounded sublime on the first section of the tune before Colaiuta and McBride kick-started the heavy groove. It was the ideal way to end the show, especially since In a Silent Way was the album where Corea and McLaughlin met.
Personal Bias: I went in expecting a lot more fusion, but I was surprised how much these guys mixed things up.
Random Detail: When Corea introduced "New Blues, Old Bruise," he said it's like cooking; it's got a lot of stuff in it. A guy behind me then yelled, "Not raisins!"
By the Way: The Five Peace Band's live album includes versions of all the songs the band played Wednesday night, as well as a version of "Someday My Prince Will Come."