Here's a magnificent souvenir of a momentous occasion
Michael Quinn 2009-05-19
Here's a magnificent souvenir of a momentous occasion: the first band-based collaboration between jazz giants John McLaughlin and Chick Corea in more than 40 years since they first met and played together as sidemen to the mighty Miles Davis during his Bitches' Brew period.
Caught live on the closing night of the 2008 London Jazz Festival, this double-disc set sees the pair team up with Kenny Garrett on sax, bassist Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums – collectively calling themselves Five Peace Band.
Corea said he wanted 'a new, fresh sound' for the band, and in its exuberant blend of intricately accomplished improvisations, classics drawn from his own and McLaughlin's back catalogues (and more than a nod to Davis and fusion pioneer Joe Zwainful), the end result certainly delivers that, and how.
The emphasis is on the ensemble work throughout, although intimate duets between Corea, pert and poetic at the keyboard, and McLaughlin on measuredly mellow electric guitar add their own indelibly lyrical and free-flowing stamps to proceedings.
For all the phenomenal pyrotechnics of the endlessly combustible – and ultimately somewhat exhausting – first disc, it's the more considered, less obviously flamboyant offerings on the second CD that sound less like barnstorming, grandstanding displays of technical prowess and more like attempts to explore musical nuance and emotional subtlety.
Where the cover of the late Jackie McLean's Dr Jackle begins with dreamy, disengaged doodling it soon shifts into rapid, laser-accurate reciprocity between the band that reaches spectacular heights of invention on Corea's own newly composed half-hour-long extravaganza Hymn To Andromeda.
The set's only medley launches with McLaughlin's own In A Silent Way before Herbie Hancock turns up to guest on It's About That Time, with the album closer an extended improvisation on Someday My Prince Will Come by Corea and McLaughlin that touches on both the tweely sentimental and the genuinely ecstatic.
A memorable document of a remarkable partnership. It's not altogether perfect, but even its imperfections showcase musicianship of an all too rare and wholly relishable invention.