Chick Corea Elektric Band: Blue Note, New York, NY 12/30/07

Roughly a year ago Chick Corea brought this same Elektric Band to New York City’s Blue Note for an extended run with the purpose of generating footage for a DVD. Hopefully, the lackluster performance of much of the band, combined with the unctuous stage presence of the leader on at least one night, wasn’t included on the Rendezvous in NY box set.

2007 was in large measure a different story altogether. For his part, Corea kept his lame attempts at humor to a minimum, an act of self-restraint mirrored in the way he set the plate instrumentally for his band. Except for the ingratiating demonstration of his mobile keyboard strapped around the neck, the keyboardist/composer displayed taste rather than an inclination to gimmickry.

The real stars of the early show this New Year’ weekend were the same as 2006 but at an even higher level. Bassist Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) and drummer Dave Weckl simply astound with the fluidity imagination and detail in their playing: whether in lightning interactions, solos the likes of which were marvels of technical skill crossed with (especially in Wooten’s case) teeming passion, or as the rhythm section of the quintet, these two men deserved the accolades of the sold out house and their boss.

Saxophonist Eric Marienthal turned out to be the surprise of the night as his burning solo on the second number displayed an eloquence and depth of feeling that belied his rote approach in last year’s show.  Guitarist Frank Gambale, however, remained as memory serves, a musician with chops but no distinct personality; his playing sounding like nothing more than a bland blend of Mahavishnu-era McLaughlin and Al Dimeola in his early Return to Forever days.

Speaking of RTF (especially with the recent announcement of their reunion and upcoming tour), the overall feel of the music parlayed by Chick Corea’s Elektric band is really nothing more than a watered down version of that seminal jazz-fusion unit including Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and the aforementioned Dimeola. Nevertheless, it’s worth seeing the lineup that graced the Blue Note stage this wet late December night for the presence and presentation of those selected members of the quintet.

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