WPRB Jazz Director Max is here to fill you in on a new release from the world of jazz fusion. Got something to share? What new Jazz records have you been digging? Drop a line to our Jazz Department in the comments!
Right now, jazz legends Chick Corea and John Mclaughlin are touring with their “Five Peace Band.” The Five Peace Band is a fusion supergroup the likes of which has not been seen since Miles Davis created the genre some forty years ago. Chick and John are joined by Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, Brian Blade on drums, and a personal favorite of mine, Christian McBride on bass.
When they announced the tour last year I was excited and bought tickets to see them when they came to New York as soon as they were available. I was worried briefly, though, that the group may not live up to my expectation. Although John McLauglin is without a doubt one of the most gifted guitarists ever, and a great composer, some of his recent albums have left a bit to be desired when compared to his earlier work (a few are also a bit heavy on the programmed synth for my taste). They have recently put out an album from some of the shows while they were in Europe which has put me at ease, since it is a spectacular collection of material.
Five Peace Band consists of two discs of live material divided into only eight songs (half of which are twenty minutes or longer). The extended tracks let every member of the band have a chance to really stretch out, and they do, with spectacular results. The only real problem with having such long tracks in general is that sometimes they begin to feel stale by the end; there is no reason to say in ten minutes what could be said in five. The Five Peace Band does not have this problem. Each track here follows a natural arc never wears out its welcome. Some, like the opening track “Raju,” start with and maintain throughout a driving intensity. Others, like “In a Silent Way/Its About That Time” have a slower or softer intro that over the course of six or seven minutes builds into that sort of driving intensity.
Closing the album is the standard “Someday My Prince Will Come”, which is a duet between Chick and John, which remains soft, lilting and beautiful from start to finish. In all cases the songs remain grossly entertaining. The bandmembers know how to listen to eachother are always interacting in interesting ways. Solos sometimes weave in and out of eachother as the musicians swap whose in front more or less as they choose to. The tracks are varied in sound as well. Although Mclaughlin continues to use the same basic subdued tone he has used on everything recently, there is a great deal of sonic variety elsewhere in the band. Chick switches from the Rhodes electric piano to the acoustic on select tracks (such as Jackie Mcleans blues, “Dr Jackle”) and Christian McBride switches liberally from electric bass, to plucked or bowed acoustic. All in all, no two tracks sound the same. If that doesn’t sound good on its own, then as a bonus, Herbie Hancock sits in with the band on one track, “In a Silent Way/Its About that Time” (the first time Herbie, Chick and John have played that cut together since they recorded with Miles). I don’t think words can do that song justice, needless to say its worth the price of admission on its own.
I would recommend that anyone fan of jazz at all at least give this album a look. I can only hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I cannot wait to see them live.