November 2008

Chick Corea & John McLaughlin: Dream Team

In 2008, fusion came back in a big way through two tours—Chick Corea with the triumphant Return to Forever reunion and John McLaughlin with his 4th Dimension Band. Those two jazz-rock stalwarts will join forces this fall for a European tour with their Five Peace Band. The tour for this supergroup, which also features alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, will kick off with a special benefit concert on Oct. 22 for humanitarian association CAAP Afrika at the Grimaldi Forum in McLaughlin’s home base of Monte Carlo, Monaco. The European tour continues through October and November. The Stateside tour, which begins on March 21 in Berkeley, Calif., includes a three-night stand at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City from April 23-25 and commences with an April 30 performance at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston.

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C. Taylor Crothers

John McLaughlin and Chick Corea

This collaboration between Corea and McLaughlin, whose association goes back to their participation on Miles Davis’ landmark sessions from the late ’60s, In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, marks the first time that the two formidable forces in contemporary music have joined forces on tour. (They also appeared together on various recordings, including Stanley Clarke’s Journey to Love in 1975, McLaughlin’s Electric Guitarist in 1979, and, most recently, Miroslav Vitous’ Universal Syncopations in 2003).

“One exciting aspect of our new project is that I’m not sure what the sound of the band will end up being exactly,” says Corea. “John and I have tossed around some initial concepts but we’re both aware that with the caliber of our partners’ musicianship, anything could and probably will happen. John and I are just now putting some themes together for our start up concerts—some of his and some of mine. I think we’ll probably play some of John’s and some of my older material, which I’m sure will have a new and different sound with this band.”

“I’m really looking forward to playing with this formation,” says McLaughlin. “None of us knows what the real sound will be, but all of us are excited about getting together and playing. Chick and I go way back to the time of Miles, and that in itself gives us a kind of complicity. The direction will primarily come from Chick and me. But with players like these, you never know where we might end up. Kenny and I have never played together other than onstage with Miles for his last Paris concert [La Villette, July 9, 1991], but I know his playing well and he’s killing. Same applies to Christian. He’s been doing some great things in music and we run into each other from time to time, but we’ve never played together yet. Vinnie is one of the most original drummers today. He played with me on The Promise, but to a much greater degree on the tune ‘New Blues Old Bruise’ which was on the Industrial Zen recording (2006, Verve). He’s killing on that track! Vinnie is not only an outstanding drummer though; his recording under his own name is radical—right up my street.”

Corea adds that he has always felt a special musical bond with McLaughlin, going back to their days together with Miles. “I’ve been an admirer of John’s music and playing ever since I first heard him when he arrived in New York City around ’68 or ’69. And although we’ve played together on several wonderful but short-lived occasions, we’ve never done a real extended get-together like this will be, and I’m very much looking forward to the experience. Musical chemistry, which I like to call spiritual chemistry, is something that I look for first in music. Of course, music is made by individuals and when they have a natural rapport and affinity for each other, as John and I do, it’s just there, ready to explore, as we’ll be doing on these upcoming concerts.”

“Chick is one of those musicians that just keeps on growing,” says McLaughlin. “He has an innate curiosity about all forms of music, and we share admiration for a lot of the same people. Chick’s got really big ears, and to play with a guy like that is very satisfying. We’ve played guitar-piano duos on a number of occasions, and there’s always something that happens. I guess that’s why they call it ‘chemistry’.”

McLaughlin’s earliest memory of Corea comes from a Montego Joe recording, Arriba! Con Montego Joe released on Prestige in 1964 (and also featuring Eddie Gomez on bass and Milford Graves on drums). “When I heard him play on that record, I said to myself, ‘This guy should be with Miles.’ And the next thing I heard, he was with Miles! Our direct meeting came on a freezing night in early January 1969 at the Baron Club in Harlem. It was the day I arrived in New York from London to play with Tony Williams and Larry Young. Since Tony was playing his final week with Miles, I came to the club and saw that Chick was in the band. That was some day.”

Regarding the name of the group, Five Peace Band, McLaughlin says it comes from a recent composition of his that appeared on his 2008 release, Floating Point. “When Chick and I were considering names for our band together, I mentioned this name, among others. He really likes it and so do I. Maybe it’s something that recalls those mind-blowing hippie years. It’s probably because I’m an old hippie myself, and will always remain 29 years old.”

McLaughlin adds that they plan to document some Five Peace Band concerts for a future DVD release.

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