Chick Corea/John McLaughlin Five Peace Band

Last weekend Liz and I flew up to Hamilton to visit my brother Peter and his wife Doris. I was there in August 2008, but Liz hadn’t been up for several years. It was great to be up with them again.

The main excuse for travelling north was that Peter and I were going to the Chick Corea/John McLaughlin Five Peace Band concert at the Aotea Centre in Auckland.

Terrific concert. Probably not music I’d want to listen to all that often on CD, but totally brilliant group playing. I suppose you’d call it of jazz fusion, but it was a lot better than most of the fusion I listened to in the ’70s and ’80s.

The Corea/McLaughlin Five Peace Band (not from the Auckland concert, though it looked the same as this).

The Corea/McLaughlin Five Peace Band (not at the Auckland concert, though it looked just like this).

The band was very tight – they were really listening to and sparking off one another. Amazing, considering that all the material was in strange time signatures. There were a few places where 6/8 and 4/4 could be detected, but those moments were few and far between. Yet it didn’t sound at all contrived. Lots of variety in the arrangements and big dynamic range – though it was never crushingly loud.

If you must have an electric guitar in the same band as a piano, this was the way to do it.

I’d never heard Chick Corea live before, though I’ve been a fan since his Return to Forever group of the 1970s. This keyboardist can do it all: fusion jazz rock, straight ahead jazz, many different flavours of latin, an I even have a recording of him playing a very creditable Mozart piano concerto.

I used to listen to McLaughlin quite a bit in the 70s and early 80s. I even went down to Christchurch to review his Mahavishnu Orchestra concert for the NZ Listener. But then I pretty much gave up on him. He hasn’t given up on his music though, and his playing in Auckland was excellent.

The rest of the band in Auckland were top notchers as well: Christian McBride, one of world’s best bass players, on electric and double bass. Brian Blade was an excellent drummer and Kenny Garrett on alto was just amazing. On one of the numbers his searing sax playing, much of it as call and response to Brian Blade, was the most over-the-top emotional piece of screaming sax soloing I’ve ever seen. It really worked at a live concert, but would soon become tedious on record.

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