Sunday, March 30, 2008

5 Peaces In A Time of War: Corea-McLaughlin Project Announced With North American, Asian and European Tour Dates October 2008 Through May 2009

In case you were wondering how Chick Corea could follow the musical spectacle of a Return To Forever reunion tour, which is sure to be the jazz event of the season, with anything but an anti-climax, here's how: he and John McLaughlin are booking engagements together as the Five Peace Band for late this Fall and early next year. Their booking agency, Ted Kurland and Associates, says they are available in Europe from October 21 - November 23, in Asia from January 31 - February 22, 2009 and in North America March 17 - May 3, 2009. Ted Kurland's one sheet says they will be "Playing music from then and now with Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta." No dates have yet been announced.

With a quick glance at the other three "Peaces", Kenny Garrett on saxophones, Christian McBride on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, one can see that whatever form the "music from then" is going to take, we will not be seeing the Beatlemania versions of the bands Corea and McLaughlin played in with Miles Davis, or of their own bands Return To Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra. In fact, no matter how one looks at the musicians in this Five Peace Band, it is impossible to imagine exactly what is in the works here. The question that comes to mind is: WHAT COULD THEY (McLaughlin and Corea) POSSIBLY BE THINKING?

Well, here's what they are thinking...

The writing of this book of material is undoubtedly going to be a co-authorship between Corea and McLaughlin, at least on the "music from. . .now", but Chick's bopping vector is obvious in the selection of these sidemen. Also obvious is that John McLaughlin must be as big a fan of the work Christian McBride and Kenny Garrett did with Chick on the Remembering Bud Powell project as I am. Along with trumpeter Wallace Roney and saxophonist Joshua Redman, Garrett and McBride were part of an all-star lineup of young lions who got to eat their fill of Bud Powell's masterworks with "old lion" Chick Corea and really "old lion" (and Bud Powell alumnus) drummer Roy Haynes, in the summer of 1996. If you missed it, both of these "old" kings of the jazz jungle were playing like 19-yr.-olds, and the cubs invited along were certainly big enough to play nice and rough with the big cats. Fortunately, they laid down some of the richest and most satisfying bop/post-bop ever recorded on Remembering Bud Powell (Stretch Records). Chick really put this band through some steeplechase paces with nine arrangements of Bud Powell's most ambitious compositions ("Tempus Fugit", "Dusk in Sandi", "Oblivion") plus a nice rendition of his own tune "Bud Powell", an homage he had been doing in concert with Gary Burton for years. It is very difficult material. Throughout his career, Corea's arrangements have been legendarily unapproachable by amateurs, but these arrangements go beyond being merely demanding, and require journeyman technique as a beginning point. Thus he chose musicians who reveled in the challenge and ultimately shattered the sound barrier with their masterful chops, swinging so hard on this recording that they knock you out. The CD isn't just a TKO, it is a real knockout, a great, great recording. Better still, it turns out Corea then topped himself by filming this group in performance and issuing a DVD. It was pivotal for me personally because I had been shopping for my first DVD player at the time and happened to read a music reviewer's comment that if one needed a tipping point, a definitive reason to jump into this new technology, live jazz performances were that reason, and the performances on Remembering Bud Powell were an absolutely killer place to start... Live recordings had always been my favorites, and still are, for the simple reason that they put you there for the complete experience. The writer's serendipitous recommendation turned out to be what I needed. I bought a dual-function VHS/DVD player so that I could still watch my old 1/2" videotape cassettes, but within minutes of hearing and seeing these passionate Powellians tear into a live performance of "Glass Enclosure" with digital picture and sound quality, I was utterly enthralled.

Kenny Garrett and Christian McBride are successful older lions now with flecks of grey in their manes. God only knows what they think they are in for under the leadership of Corea-McLaughlin. But one thing is certain about these five un-easy peaces: they will be able to play it.

The choice of Vinnie Colaiuta to do the drumwork is a possible clue as to what may be in store. He's worked extensively with Corea, but his recent work on McLaughlin's Industrial Zen (Abstract Logix, 2006) was part of a surprise return to electric fusion by McLaughlin. Colaiuta has literally played every kind of music that employs a drum kit, so fusion isn't necessarily the direction this project is headed. But it could be. His background playing with everyone from Frank Zappa to Sting bas certainly taught him what a downbeat is for.

The most salient feature of this collaboration between John McLaughlin and Chick Corea is discernible in the name they have chosen for their musical assemblage: the Five Peace Band. Both men are deeply spiritual people. Both were born during World War II and came of age during the Viet Nam war. Both are intelligent, well-spoken men who feel a responsibility for the human race and have chosen to express their desire for peace throughout the Iraq war by creating peace wherever they go around the world, pouring oil on troubled waters, lifting people's spirits and spreading goodwill -- not, as some less responsible musicians in the jazz community choose to do, by condemning national leaders who spend long days and nights trying to solve the problems of the world, or by resorting to sophomoric anti-American, anti-Western platitudes. None but the rabidly insane desire war. Sane people know this, and they also know the difficult truth that freedom in the modern world has always come at a price and required a lot of hard work. McLaughlin and Corea both understand this and want to work determinedly to create a better world.

Like Chick's long-term friendship and duet relationship with that other jazz-rock giant, Herbie Hancock, this is a pairing that promises great things which no one, not even they, have yet dreamed of, because their relationship derives from an even higher, philosophical connection that transcends music. Individual accomplishment, with no thought given to immediate approbation or agreement, is what drives someone artistically and is, ironically, what ultimately rewards the artist with widespread acceptance. Joining two such artists adds an exponent to the differential equation. As Chick commented from the stage one night 30 years ago, while introducing a duet with Herbie, what makes such a collaboration so special is that "there is only one of him [Herbie]." Just as there is only one John McLaughlin, only one Chick Corea. It is not mere coincidence that these jazz pioneers, along with their friend Wayne Shorter, all played together with Miles Davis as he exhorted them to seek new "directions in music". More to the point, it is not mere coincidence that each has now spent his adult life in religious devotion to seeking spiritual Truth. A Scientologist, a Yogi and two Buddhists sprang from this converging of cosmic forces, and the religious/philosophical brotherhood thereby forged has continued to this day. The pairing of Chick Corea and John McLaughlin portends greatness not simply because they and Garrett, McBride and Colaiuta are all such monstrously talented musicians, but because they are going to use their talent and technique to communicate love for their fellow man. Their keys and strings and reeds and sticks will come together in sublime confluences they themselves have not yet forseen, as they serve a higher purpose: peace.


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