Chick Corea & John McLaughlin – Five Peace Band Live (2009)

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We’re not even four months into 2009 and already we’re here for the third time since February celebrating a new Chick Corea release. In February, it was piano/piano face-off with Hiromi called Duet, in March it was the live document of Return To Forever’s triumphant return Returns, and today it’s about another nostalgia trip on the stage, Five Peace Band co-led with the father of fusion guitar, John McLaughlin.

This band would already have a sick lineup if McLaughlin and Corea had randomly picked members of a high school marching band to fill out the group, but they instead from among the very best living players: Kenny Garrett (saxophone), Christian McBride (acoustic and electric basses) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums). Wow.

Touring world-wide during the fall of 2008 (right after Corea completed his RTF tour), the two legends and former bandmates of Miles Davis’ early fusion masterpieces In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew seemed to have no problem on settling on the musical direction for this band and agreeing on ideas for it. The overall mission was to present to audiences material that showcases the immensely vast capabilities of Corea and McLaughlin, as well as Garrett, McBride and Colaiuta (note: Brian Blade sat in for Colaiuta for certain concerts of the tour, but those sets are not included on this live document). Both leaders brought their own compositions, McLaughlin’s coming from his last two releases Industrial Zen and Floating Point, while Corea’s contributions were written expressly for the Five Peace Band.

McLaughlin’s recent fusion number “Raju” kicks off the album that is a sort of a mutated blues with Johnny Mac and Garrett stating the theme in unison. Corea bends notes on his keyboard like only he knows how to do it for his solo, and McLaughlin’s own sizzling runs confirm that he’s still at the top of the heap among fusion guitarists. McLaughlin’s moody “New Blues, Old Bruise” becomes a showcase for Garrett’s distinctively urgent howl, and Colaiuta does some disruptive work on his kit.

Corea brought the brand-new “The Disguise” to the table. It contains a nice melody underpinned solidly by Colaiuta’s Latin-tinged rhythms and everyone here gets to solo; Corea himself stick to piano. The more straight-ahead, slowly building “Hymn To Andromeda” contains some lovely passages that both leaders excel in, but at 27 minutes, it lumbers on way too long.

Disc 2 is devoted mainly toward unique interpretations of other people’s songs. The arrangement on Jackie McLean’s bop standard “Dr. Jackle” is pretty special. Corea starts out with some fanciful musings on solo piano for the first few minutes, then the theme is stated by McLaughlin and Garrett. The full tone on McLaughlin’s guitar paired up with Garrett’s sax gives the combination of the two the effect of a full horn section. McLaughlin’s guitar solo later on sound conspicuously like John Scofield (which is no complaint, by the way), and McBride peppers the songs at various points with bass counterpoints that provide a catalyst for the other players. At twenty-three minutes, this track is a bit long, too, but it still brims with ideas.

McLaughlin’s third and last original “Senor C.S.” (from Industrial Zen follows, with some hot improvising by Garrett, Corea and McLaughlin, while McBride and Colaiuta forge some tight rhythms, although the song itself is not particularly memorable.

The highlight of the entire set has got to be the first song Corea and McLaughlin had ever played together: Miles’ seminal fusion hallmark “In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time.” For this track only, they bring in another guy who played on the original recording, Herbie Hancock. While this is the first time all three performed the song together sing that recording date from forty years ago, they bring both a fresh look at the side-long pair of songs while remaining aware of Miles’ vision for it. Corea largely hangs back in a sympathetic comping role on his electronic keyboards while McLaughlin and especially Hancock on piano drive the songs. Well-supported by Garrett, McBride and Colaiuta, the old masters had to have been pleased with how this rendition turned out.

The entire proceedings ends with another Miles-related number, “Someday My Prince Will Come.” The rest of the band sits out as Corea and McLaughlin have an intimate musical conversation between two old friends…friends who first came together to help fulfill Miles’ far-reaching vision of four decades ago.

Twenty years ago, McLaughlin was part of a fusion supergroup that fell apart before having a chance to live up to its promise. In the case of this supergroup playing on Five Peace Band Live, the promise is largely fulfilled.

Here’s a stream for “Someday My Prince Will Come”:


Windows Media Player

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