Album review

Chick Corea Akoustic Band – ‘Live’

Chick Corea Akoustic Band – Live

(ConcordJazz CJA00291. CD review by Mike Collins)

A poignant reflection concludes the liner notes for this live recording from 2018 of Chick Corea’s Akoustic Trio. The two sets on this double CD marked the first gig in a tour for the line-up of Corea, John Patitucci and Dave Weckl, after a more than twenty year hiatus since their heyday in the 80s and 90s. In notes prepared soon after, revelling in the undiminished dynamism of the band, Robin Kelley expresses the wish that we won’t have to wait another twenty years to repeat the experience. With Corea’s death earlier this year, this set is now the first posthumous release of a Corea performance and there’ll be no repeats, but this recording will stand as a document to an occasion bursting with energy and optimism.

This was one of several trios in Corea’s near six-decade career and was also the core of his Elektric band. They brought a distinctive muscularity and energy to a repertoire of Corea originals and standards. The two live sets from one evening in 2018 were preceded by only a brief rehearsal so that, in the words of Corea, ‘we could end together’, and re-visited much of that book. They open with the leader’s Morning Sprite, close the first set with his Humpty Dumpty, standards Summer Night, In a Sentimental Mood, On Green Dolphin Street, Monk’s Mood , You and the Night and the Music all get an outing. They play as if no time had passed, with a sympathy and responsiveness to each other that is thrilling.

It’s hard to listen to Morning Sprite without a smile and the impulse to skip. The dancing feel is built around a series of kicks and hits in the extended theme which hurl rather than push the momentum forward, all three players catching them as Weckl seems to imply or sketch in every subdivision of the beat, and the fluency with which Patitucci’s bass doubles the sinuous melodic lines from the piano is breathtaking. It’s quintessential Akoustic Band, and an exhilarating ride. To have sat in the audience that night, the listener would surely have thought, ‘wow, they’re back’.

The standards are invested with same propulsive energy and audible kicks mixed with melodic invention. Corea introduces In A Sentimental Mood with an extended rumination, the decoration not so much filigree as interlocking shards of crystalline patterns, it’s an unsentimental take with darkness and abstraction in the mix. Corea’s Rhumba Flamenco and Eternal Child makes sure the explosive potential of the latin grooves are exploited, Weckl’s solos evoking roars of approval. Eternal Child in particular is a bravura group piece with first Patitucci, then Corea assaying unaccompanied commentaries before the pulsating samba takes hold, a typically twisting theme unfolds and almost probing, exploratory improvisations.

The last piece is an affecting version of You’re Everything, a Corea song from the Return to Forever band, with Gayle Moran Corea guesting on vocal. Is it fanciful hindsight to suggest it invests the whole set with a celebrator, almost valedictory air? Perhaps so, but this is a joyful, exuberant reprise of the Akoustic Band, to use Corea’s words again, ‘throwing it down’ on stage.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter

Live was recorded 13 January 2018 at SPC Music Hall in St. Petersburg, Florida is released on 24 September 2021

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