Contemporary Jazz

Peace Out


In 2009, I went to UCLA's Royce Hall to see Chick Corea and John McLaughlin's Five Peace Band in concert. With Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Vinny Colaiuto assisting, the two all-stars tore the roof off of the hall. Listening to Five Peace Band Live, the double CD they recorded during their European tour, always brings me back to that amazing show.

The combined talents of the five men were a juggernaut to the audience, driving the capacity crowd into frenzied roars and standing ovations before, during and after tunes for nearly three hours. Midway through, I seriously wondered how many layers of awesomeness can the human central nervous system withstand?

Fellow music critic Scott Yanow remarked to me during intermission, "When Kenny Garrett is one of the mere mortals on the stage...." Indeed, Garrett, an outstanding post-bop horn player who shares Miles alumnus status with Corea and McLaughlin, would be the focal point in any other combination. He often took a guitar part on the heads, doubling with McLaughlin the fast unison lines that are a hallmark of the guitarist's style. He drove his solos into the stratosphere, ripping themes apart as if he was channeling Ornette. McBride, Rolling Stone's Hot New Jazz Artist at 20, more recently was a member of SuperBass with Ray Brown and John Clayton. Best known for his straight ahead acoustic playing, he burned on a fretless 5-string electric. Colaiuto, a Frank Zappa alum, was also touring that year with another rock legend, Jeff Beck.

And the two old masters? Corea never disappoints, his ideas as complex and his technique are as sharp as ever. He played mostly a Rhodes sample with a lot of pitch bender, creating an evocative '70s-era mood. On the spacey "Hymn To Andromeda," he switched to the grand, tapping the strings inside the piano with a drum mallet as he 'comped chords with his left hand. Then 67-year-old McLaughlin has not lost a bit of his astonishing technical prowess. Playing a Godin guitar with fat Humbucking pickups and wearing an 'I've got a secret' smile, he tore through his extended solos with lines that were intellectually brilliant yet emotionally gut wrenching. He looks like a man with a steady pulse but this listener's heart was pounding.