Left - Chick Corea
Speaking the same music, an ecstatic crowd and a stellar group of five inspired jazz musicians conversed in a packed Hamer Hall on Wednesday night for about two and a half hours. The enthusiastic welcoming reception of the musicians on stage, the audience’s animated engagement all the way through and the huge applause at the end of the concert illustrated that the long-anticipated new collaboration project of Chick Corea and John McLaughlin was right on target. The audience was made up primarily of male baby boomers but also of many young people and musicians. Seeing parents and children together confirmed even more that this music source bridges over generations.
Chick Corea and John McLaughlin - two jazz icons with careers spanning decades and endorsed with acclaim for penetrating unexplored soundscapes had not played together since the late 1960s when they made history by participating in the jazz fusion experimentations of Miles Davis - In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970). On the outlook for fresh sound, the Five Piece Band is touring the world and delivering new jazz fusion, electric and acoustic. The program features tunes from Corea’s and McLaughlin’s latest albums and three younger accomplished and exceptionally gifted musicians: Christian McBride (bass), Kenny Garrett (sax) & Brian Blade (drums).
Kicking off with Raju from McLaughlin’s new release Floating Point, rich electric fusion took over the space together with astonishing improvisations. The sound engineers achieved perfection of balance between the instruments and in terms of volume in this huge space. A circular motif set the motion of the second piece. This mellow delicate composition by Chick Corea allowed Christian McBride to display the most intricate patterns on the acoustic bass. McLaughlin’s New Blues Old Bruise found a new-fangled interpretation of the blues, the roots of jazz, commencing with a drum solo of primordial dimensions as if to compensate for the rhythmic ostinatos which were to underline the rest of the piece. Brian Blade’s distinctive style - “knit in the blanket” as he puts it - is brought to life from a deep source of energy and with cheer joy. It is characterised by an immense clarity of articulation and a unique rhythmic sense of enriching or punctuating the texture. Rarely is a musician so naturally married to the shape and motions of his instrument that he looks awkward when away from it.
The genius of the artists continued to dazzle the audience during the second set, where musical exchanges crossed more genres and explored new sonorities. The highlight of this set was Hymn to Andromeda from Corea’s brand new album. Extended techniques and electronic sounds illustrated an alien landscape, moving onto acoustic jazz trio style and then classical composition, including the rich timbre of a bowed double bass improvised melody. Kenny Garrett made the sax cry, while a delicate piano theme over a layer of repeated chords reached the final dissonant chord and exposed the space to charged silence. In the second piece of this set the band paid homage to Miles Davis with their rendition of Doctor Jackle, first recorded in 1951 in the album Dig, where McLaughlin played his best solo of the night. He has the skill both to deliver stirring solos and to blend the electric guitar with acoustic instruments. An encore of fireworks based on a single motif left the crowd satisfied and speechless.
No musician dominated the Five Piece Band. Ensemble work, moderation and acute awareness were exemplary throughout the performance. The spectators witnessed not only the best of what jazz has to offer today but the best of what music is about – an organic unity of collaborative thinking and sentiment.
Five Piece Band
Chick Corea & John McLaughlin with Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett & Brian Blade
Venue: Hamer Hall, The Arts Centre 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
Date: 18 February 2009
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 723 038