There was an unmistakable feeling of conviviality in the air when Chick Corea reconvened his Akoustic Band in January 2018 for a concert at the acoustically pristine 310-seat St. Petersburg College Music Center in Florida, witnessed by this reviewer and now documented on this album. The pianist—who passed away unexpectedly last February—was joined by bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. They’d come together for the first time in 1985 as the core of Corea’s Elektric Band, and now they were revisiting their long-dormant Akoustic project in front of an audience that included Corea’s family, friends, and fans, all showing their support for an artist who relocated to the Tampa Bay area in 1997.
Listeners were rewarded with two sets that are frequently as exploratory and dynamic as the leader’s many other trios, from his recent outings with Christian McBride and Brian Blade all the way back to his acclaimed work with Roy Haynes and Miroslav Vitous on 1968’s landmark Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. The three are most engaging on Akoustic and Elektric favorites: “Humpty Dumpty,” with its zigzagging unison piano/bass melody, comes in two versions, both opened by unaccompanied piano, the second more playful and fiercer than the first, while Patitucci’s chewy, resonant solo opens the waltzing “Summer Night” and his prodigious arco playing starts the stately “Eternal Child.”
The group, naturally, enlivens familiar gems. Patitucci sounds the melody on “That Old Feeling,” the three mine new drama from Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” and the pianist and bassist use cat-and-mouse games and an extended Weckl solo to energize “On Green Dolphin Street.” They cap it all with an undeniably sweet moment, a sprawling version of “You’re Everything” with singer Gayle Moran Corea, the leader’s wife, handling the notably difficult part—“impossible to sing,” she laughs—originally sung by Flora Purim with Return to Forever.