Chick Corea and John McLaughlin share one of the great pedigrees in the music of the 20th century: they were both key sidemen on Miles Davis' seminal albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. They have played together since those heady days, as a duo or as sit-in guests. Five Peace Band was Corea's idea of putting together a dream band to play all kinds of jazz, and he approached McLaughlin. Corea chose the other members in saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Christian McBride. The group toured for nearly a year following Corea's Return to Forever reunion tour, and this double CD was compiled from that jaunt. It's true that on paper supergroups are suspicious offerings. Not so here. This band includes three younger - yet veteran - musicians who team wonderfully with the two legends on this set. Of the eight pieces included here, five are originals - three by McLaughlin and a pair by Corea - along with Davis' "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time" (with Herbie Hancock guesting), Jackie McLean's "Dr. Jackle," and a reading of the standard "Someday My Prince Will Come" (a duet between pianist and guitarist that elegantly closes disc two). McLaughlin's compositions are fairly recent; they were recorded with his 4th Dimension group on his excellent Floating Point and Industrial Zen albums. As one can imagine, this material is played here the way it was there - only more so - as extremely engaging 21st century electric fusion. His other piece, "Senor C.S.," is reimagined from the studio version on Industrial Zen. Here it is played harder and faster yet gives away none of its Latin groove, and instead comes off as a new, much more technically ambitious mutation of samba.
It should be noted that the rhythm section here is nothing less than startling. McBride is equally at home on an electric bass, and his sense of fire, funkiness, and dynamic range is in every note. Colaiuta is simply one of the most talented and exciting drummers out there, and creates an art form of dressing his timekeeping in impeccable and imaginative ways. Corea's tunes are closer to something resembling mainstream jazz - though the gorgeous and lengthy (it clocks in at over 27 minutes) "Hymn to Andromeda" moves gradually and beautifully to the outside, with beautiful playing by Garrett and McLaughlin, who can still handle non-fusion material with invention, restraint, and taste. Disc two begins with an odd, idiosyncratic reading of McLean's "Dr. Jackle" as an attempt to stretch hard bop toward something (via Corea's arrangement) - but what it is, isn't quite clear. The version of "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time" with Hancock is the album's high point. He plays an electric piano and creates the necessary incantatory vibe in the ethereal, soft, speculative beginning for Corea to simply caress into being. McLaughlin just floats about as an accompanist to the keys, and when he does play single lines, they become hesitant, soft, direction-pointing exercises toward what is to come. When the tune splits and becomes more aggressive in the latter half, the band gels and he finds himself in the maelstrom as the two keyboardists vie for dominance and the rhythm section creates a sense of pulse and excitement. His solo is brief and to the point yet full of knots and turns - his trading lines with Garrett is especially tantalizing. Five Peace Band re-creates an extremely ambitious and beautifully executed gig, where all players were firing on all cylinders.
All Music Guide
Superstar collaborations often look good on paper but don't pan out in reality, so it's a real pleasure to see that the pairing of two modern legends-keyboardist Chick Corea and guitarist John McLaughlin-is far more than some marketing representative's wet dream. Teaming with three younger players who add their own cachet-saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta-Five Peace Band Live captures the group on the first leg of a nearly year-long tour, hot on the heels of Corea's much-lauded Return to Forever reunion, documented on Returns (Eagle Records, 2009). While FPB Live isn't as pedal-to-the metal fusion as Returns, there's no shortage of high-octane playing, as the quintet works through a number of originals, a couple of standards and a fine tribute to Miles Davis, who brought Corea and McLaughlin together for the first time 30 years ago on In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969).
Comparing FPB with McLaughlin's 4th Dimension group, the two tracks covered by both bands yield significant differences. The fiery "Raju" doesn't change much, though Garrett nearly blows the roof off whatever venue it was recorded in, lending considerably more weight to the song. Colaiuta and McBride are equally powerful, while Corea's personality gives the tune some additional harmonic movement.
"Senor C.S.," on the other hand, is reimagined as a high velocity samba, beginning with a Corea/McLaughlin duet that demonstrates the simpatico bond that makes this pairing long overdue. Despite McLaughlin's lightning-fast yet always lyrical delivery, it recalls Corea's early, Latin-esque Return to Forever-although the late Joe Farrell never played with as much unbridled passion as Garrett, who comes close to stealing the show from Corea and McLaughlin on more than one occasion. Meanwhile, "New Bruise, Old Blues," from Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006), is as funky as FPB gets, with one of Corea's most visceral synth solos of the set.
If McLaughlin's tunes are more fusion-centric, Corea's two contributions take FPB closer to the modern mainstream, with "The Disguise" more down-the-middle, but proof-as if any was needed-that McLaughlin can still work that turf with ease. "Hymn to Andromeda" begins freely, Corea working in and out of the piano box as McBride enters to deliver a poignant arco solo before the rest of the group joins to gradually move into modal territory, with Garrett delivering another set highlight, gradually building his solo as the band coalesces and intensifies behind him.
Alongside a quirky rearrangement of Jackie McLean's "Dr. Jackle" and a closing Corea/McLaughlin duet on "Someday My Prince Will Come," the group pays tribute to Miles on a lengthy, more open-ended rework of "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time," with Herbie Hancock guesting to create an ethereal electric piano cushion before the band enters in the more propulsive second half, with McLaughlin proving himself as able an accompanist as he is an evocative soloist.
Running the gamut from straight-ahead to balls-out fusion, Five Peace Band Live is a rare opportunity to hear two masters create something that references both of their careers but combines to create something with its own distinct personality.