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!
This year’s Grammy selections in the jazz categories surprised me. The nominees and winners are frequently predictable if you’ve paid attention to the categories in the last 20 years. This year’s omissions are perplexing. The Chick Corea Elektric Band reunited for a concept album. A concept album by a fusion era leader not recognized by the Recording Academy? Almost. “The Long Passage,” a challenging piece from the CCEB’s To the Stars, earned Corea a Best Instrumental Arrangement nomination. That’s it. Diana Krall released her first recording that contained recent music that she wrote and wrote with husband and frequent Grammy-nominee Elvis Costello. The Girl in the Other Room garnered much praise. She received zero nominations, though Al Schmitt and Tommy LiPuma received nominations for engineering and producing it. Gifted singer Jane Monheit moved to the Sony label this year but still didn’t get recognized, though Vince Mendoza did for arranging “Dancing in the Dark” from her Taking A Chance On Love CD.
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!
OK, I watched the Grammys and wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. The Foo Fighters and Chick Corea collaboration was great. I’m thinking Chick was ready for a smoke and a lay after rocking with those guys. I was surprised to see Arturo Sandoval perform with Justin Timberlake. I love the jazz and pop/rock combos, but I would like to see the pop/rock guys tackling a jazz song instead of the other way around. Even better, I’d like to see the return of jazz artists performing their own music on the broadcast.
So who won? You have to go to the Grammy site to find out. In the last few years, the broadcast quickly showed them on the side when getting ready to go to break. This year, they gave up and said go to the web site. The “Metheny Always Wins” mandate holds true – he’s the winner of Best New Age Album. No surprise to see Wayne Shorter pick up Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Alegria. Randy Brecker, Michel Camilo, Dianne Reeves, Michael Brecker, and Chick Corea were other jazz Grammy winners.
Thanks to OutKast closing the show, I’m going to have “Hey Ya!” in my head all night.
John 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.”