The Great Pumpkin Waltz

The song I probably listen to most this time of year is Vince Guaraldi’s “The Great Pumpkin Waltz.” That’s a classic. Chick Corea covered it in the 1989 GRP compilation Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown! That recording in itself is great, with B.B. King, Joe Williams, Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, and classic GRP artists Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, and David Benoit playing music from Peanuts specials. It’s always the Chick Corea trio of Chick, John Patitucci, and Tom Brechtlein and their top-notch recording that is the first track I queue up.

Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!

Review: T Lavitz – School of the Arts

I first came across T Lavitz, when I picked up his Extended Play recording in late 1985. I had no idea at the time who T Lavitz was, but I recognized Chet Catallo, Eli Konikoff and Dave Samuels of Spyro Gyra, so I took a chance and bought the LP. I liked what I heard, and have pretty much followed all the iterations of his bands and solo recordings ever since: Solo recordings, The Players, The Bad Habitz, The Connection, Cosmic Farm, Endangered Species, Boston T Party, and now, School Of The Arts.

Regardless of the recording or supporting players, you can’t help recognizing Lavitz’s distinctive writing and playing, something that I can only describe as “Countrified Jazz Rock.” School Of The Arts is Lavitz’s most straight ahead recording since 1991’s Mood Swings, and in my opinion, his strongest session in a long time. That’s not to say last year’s Boston T Party wasn’t good – in fact, it was great, just more along the lines of a jam band. This group, which includes three fifths of the Elektric Band, is just so incredibly strong. Besides Dave Weckl on drums, John Patitucci on bass, and Frank Gambale on guitar, former Dixie Dregs bandmate Steve Morse on guitar and former Mahavishnu violinist Jerry Goodman also joins Lavitz. Listen to the third track, “Portrait” – the energy is just incredible, these guys tear it up. Steve Morse wails on acoustic guitar! Jerry Goodman steps up front on “Like This,” a tune that is typical of Lavitz’s “Countrified Jazz Rock” approach. “On Fire” is full of that signature Lavitz sound, of the big thumping bass and acoustic piano attack that he’s employed so successfully over the years. “Fairweather Green” reminds me of an updated version of the Dregs – albeit, an acoustic version anchored by John Patitucci’s acoustic bass.

In a year of some very interesting and good recordings, this may be my #1 pick. If you like your jazz cerebral and muscular, then School Of The Arts is a keeper.

Buy the CD from Amazon.com!
Buy the download from iTunes!

Smoke N’ Mirrors from Lee Ritenour

He’s been a presence in contemporary jazz for more than two decades and nominated for seventeen Grammy awards. Guitarist Lee Ritenour still has stories to tell. The concept for his new release, Smoke N’ Mirrors, came from different sources, notably his first trip to South Africa last year. The new recording has a definite world influence. Ritenour brought in a number of musicians to help him achieve his vision: eight percussionists, South African singer Zamajobe, Daniel Jobim (grandson of Brazilian legend Antonio Carlos Jobim), his thirteen year old son, Wesley, and old friends like Dave Grusin, John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, Abraham Laboriel, Richard Bona, and Patrice Rushen. He also plays twelve different guitars. As you would expect from the personnel, the performances are top-notch and Rit’s playing is fluid. If you haven’t checked out Captain Fingers in a while, Smoke N’ Mirrors is a good one to pick up.

Chick Corea Elektric Band – To the Stars

Where is the hoopla around the new Chick Corea Elektric Band release To the Stars? The band easily ranks among the top fusion bands of all time. Every member – John Patitucci, Dave Weckl, Frank Gambale, and Eric Marienthal – all have sustained solo careers. I must not be in the loop because I’m not detecting any buzz. These guys have not recorded together in a decade. Yet from listening to this release, it’s like no time has passed.
To the Stars, inspired by the classic L. Ron Hubbard science-fiction novel, immediately jumps in your face with energy and power. Its complexity and construction is like the classic Elektric Band recordings you know. In case you might have forgotten, you will be instantly reminded of hard-to-surpass musicianship of these individuals. I’m overjoyed to hear Patitucci plugged in again, to hear Gambale stand out, and to hear Marienthal pull away from smooth jazz for a while. Corea sounds inspired. While you’ll recognize the familiar sounds that are characteristic of the Elektric Band, there are a few surprises. Most significant is a beautiful vocal choir on “The Long Passage,” which is voiced by Gayle Moran Corea.
The Elektric Band and this recording are the epitome of modern jazz. Spread the word! How often do jazz supergroups reunite?
Welcome back, band. Hope to hear you together again soon.

Wishful Thinking – What I Would Like To See As A Result Of This Elektric Band Reunion:

  • Marienthal makes a follow-up to his 1990 modern jazz Crossroads CD
  • Gambale CD sales quadruple
  • Patitucci realizes how much he missed playing electric and records a new fusion CD similar to Christian McBride’s Vertical Vision
  • Weckl takes a one-album break to do a solo record where he invites his all-star modern jazz buds. Despite a good number of excellent Dave Weckl Band records, his first solo effort, Master Plan, is still my favorite. His collaborations with Michael Brecker, Chick, Steve Gadd, Marienthal, and others were in the pocket on that. After that, bring the Dave Weckl Band to Kansas City.
  • Chick gets the Foo Fighters to play his music at the Grammys – and it’s televised!

Chick Corea Elektric Band Concert Report

Chick CoreaJohn Vidor recently caught one of the few Chick Corea Elektric Band Reunion concerts at The Blue Note in NYC on October 26. John has been kind enough to write this report and supply the pictures below. Thanks, John!

“Having lived in the New York City area for over 15 years until 1985, and now living in upstate New York, it is always a pleasure going back for a visit, especially when going to see a jazz show. On Saturday, October 26, my wife Gladys and I had the pleasure of attending the reunion concert of the Chick Corea Elektric Band at The Blue Note. Chick was joined by Eric Marienthal, Frank Gambale, Jimmy Earl, and Dave Weckl. To say that the show was one of the finest we ever saw would be an understatement. The fact that we were sitting only one seat back from stage-center in this hallowed center of jazz only added to the enjoyment. From this vantage point, one can see the drops of sweat, the popping veins, and the intense concentration of the band members as they perform. Chick’s choice of the term “Elektric” for this band not only refers to the instrumentation, but, at least in my opinion, to the charged atmosphere created by group as they play. It was a full house at the Blue Note last Saturday, with people of various ethnic backgrounds coming together to enjoy the show. I heard Brazilian, German, Russian, Swedish, and Spanish being spoken. The band has international appeal. Another couple sitting with us at our table came all the way from Cleveland, Ohio. Chick and the guys played a number of songs from their various releases. My personal favorite was “Blue Miles”, an in-your-face funk tune off the band’s Paint the World release. In addition, there were duets with Chick and Eric, and Chick and Frank (on acoustic guitar). Dave Weckl provided incredible drum work, and Jimmy Earl’s contribution on bass was astounding. There was plenty of opportunity for soloing by all of the members, and each member took full advantage to show off their chops. After the show, I had the pleasure of taking a couple of pictures with Chick. I asked him if a new Elektric Band release was planned. Chick was a bit evasive, but my guess is that if the boys are met with the response at the other venues they will be appearing at, is the same as at The Blue Note last Saturday, get ready for some more “elektricity” from this super-band.”

Chick Corea live Chick Corea live Chick Corea live Chick Corea live Chick Corea live