Review: Chick Corea and John McLaughlin at Aotea Centre

By Graham Reid

Add a comment

They say never throw anything away, it'll come back into fashion. Today, many might be regretting getting rid of their mid-70s fusion albums after this exceptional concert fronted by two of the mainsprings of that jazz-rock style, keyboard player Chick Corea and guitarist John McLaughlin.

But where 1970s fusion too often disappeared up its own arpeggios, three decades on these protagonists brought a wealth of experience to expand the parameters while reining in the excesses.

This was - in places - fusion, but not as we once endured it.

On hand with these 67-year-olds was a younger generation of players: saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride (who came up through the neo-conservative 1980s but quickly abandoned its constraints) and the extraordinary drummer Brian Blade.

When there was fiery dialogue between these players, the enthusiastic audience witnessed an intuitive, cross-generational conference call which scaled heights and defied preconceptions.

From Corea's richly embellished piano ballad The Disguise - full of abrupt stops and directional changes (propelled by the muscular, musical and deft playing of Blade) through McLaughlin's staccato runs, keening notes and breathtaking fluidity, to Garrett's astonishing 10-minute flight of piercing and screaming notes which conjured up the restless spirits of Albert Ayler and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, this was jazz to be viscerally experienced.

The assured McBride brought earthy five-string electric bass to McLaughlin's New Blues Old Bruise - he and McLaughlin discreetly drawing the melodic pulse back to suggestions of a Chicago blues riff - during which Garrett made references to North African music in his solo.

And if Garrett could pull out a biting and astringent tone only to wittily drop in the melody of Girl From Ipanema, Corea could equally shift from attenuated lyricism to broad flourishes before handing over to McBride for some melancholy arco playing on acoustic bass. Blade's brilliance was everywhere, and sometimes "out there".

This was music made by equals, much of which has been unequalled in this country.

From new fusion to an overhaul of Jackie McLean post-bop swing on Dr Jackle, from angular ballads to blues and galloping Latin rhythms, the Five Peace Band brought lifetimes of experience into the present tense.

And if at times it was a tense and intense concert - that Garrett solo will linger for years - then so be it: this was jazz without compromise, invention without fear, and it was delivered by master craftsmen.

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 24 Aug 2014 03:57:28 Processing Time: 806ms