Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chick Corea & John McLaughlin - Five Peace Band (Concord, 2009)

Five Peace Band is a jazz super-group co-led by Miles Davis alums and longtime fusion pioneers Chick Corea on piano and electronic keyboards and John McLaughlin on guitar. Rounding out the group are Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, Christian McBride on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. The litmus test for how much one may enjoy this double disc compilation of their 2008 European tour is whether or not you are a fan of 1970's jazz-rock fusion bands like Corea's recently re-formed Return to Forever or McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. If you enjoy those bands, chances are you'll like this because the musky, incense laden scent of the 1970's pervades from the retro artwork on the cover to the overlong jams that bog down some of the music. This isn't to say it's a total flop, all five musicians are masters of their collective instruments, and have moments of powerful soloing. Garrett is a little out of place in what is essentially a retro-fusion group but still finds chances to build potent solos which even work in some Pharoah Sanders like over-blowing on the likes of "Raju" and the surprising inclusion, Jackie McLean's bebop anthem "Dr. Jackle." He is able to liven up the nearly half hour long "Hymn to Andromeda" with a tart solo about twelve minutes in, rescuing a very slow performance that was on its way to becoming stultifying. I guess that was my biggest disappointment of the album - despite the high powered musicianship available, was that the music seemed to be watered down by unnecessary jams and vamps which robbed the potent sections of much of their power. Perhaps a judiciously edited single CD would have been more appropriate than a two-hour plus double album. If you are nostalgic for the heyday of fusion, you'll undoubtedly enjoy this, but I found it a little disappointing because of the self indulgent jamming, and in need of some pithy and thoughtful restraint.
Five Peace Band -

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