Five Peace Band

Five Peace Band – Live

(Live concert review from May 1, 2009 at Flynn Theatre in Burlington, VT).

The Flynn Theatre in Burlington, Vermont would be the last stop of this historic meeting of fusion gods Chick Corea and John McLaughlin. The night before in Boston the Five Peace Band ran through its repertoire that was supposedly honed through a long worldwide tour. Though good, the band just didn’t seem to catch fire. I would later find out the quintet was dead tired from an exhausting 9-hour bus commute from Maryland that was full of road construction and rush hour traffic.

Five Peace Band

Five Peace Band

The band’s music was a powerful mix of fusion and progressive and modern jazz. Corea’s compositions were the more jazz oriented. His featured piece, the sober but hopeful “Hymn to Andromeda,” was a lengthy exposition that could have served as a suite. The version played in Burlington was stunning. Each player was given extended solo space in between return visits to Corea’s affecting melody. McLaughlin’s compositions, “Senor CS” among them, were fusion in every sense of the word. Bassist McBride seemed like a kid in a candy store during these renditions. McBride may have been known as one of those modern jazz “young lions – though that descriptor is thankfully becoming passé- but given his druthers I suspect he would have liked to have been born a decade or two earlier so he could have been a force in the 70s’ jazz- rock movement. Saxophonist Kenny Garrett had routinely blown the roof off of venues for the better part of the tour. This night in Burlington, however, he took a different and more introspective approach. He spent much of the show in the lower registers. This garnered him less applause for his “out there” solos then had become the trend. But it changed the dynamic of the band for the better. He provided a new surprising contrast that the other players thrived on. Drummer Brian Blade, who sat in on this portion of the tour for powerhouse Vinnie Colaiuta, tends to offer more shading than Colaiuta. This tips the balance of the sound slightly more towards the modern jazz element. There is more open space to fill. More often than not, the players tended to fill that space with colors plucked from the jazz canon.

What about Corea and McLaughlin? This band was Chick Corea’s idea. One gets the sense he really wanted to hear John McLaughlin play guitar. On both nights I saw the band, and the anecdotal information tends to support this view as well, Corea laid back a bit. This requires a great deal of confidence and generosity on his part. I thought he did the same during last year’s Return to Forever reunion. His posture was not one of non-participation. On the contrary, he was very involved and seemed to place emphasis on accompanying and helping to create the right sound palette. His solos tended to be short- but effective. He struck just the right balance and, as always, his acoustic playing was absolutely stunning. McLaughlin was not at his best in Boston. In Burlington he was on fire and clearly became the crowd’s favorite. Everyone sensed this was a special night to hear McLaughlin. The rousing finale of Miles Davis’ classic “In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time” featured furious trade-offs and unison playing from McLaughlin and McBride in particular. Wide smiles filled the stage and the faces in the audience. A five-minute standing ovation ensued. Backstage, McBride was beaming and could not stop talking about how McLaughlin, and the whole band, played on this last night of the tour. In his moments of exultation he wondered aloud how anything could ever match it. The road crew told us we were lucky enough to see the best show of the tour. It was fitting it was the last.


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