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The Chick Corea Elektric Band at the Metropolis Arena, Macedonia 2017

Nenad Georgievski By

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Chick Corea Elektric Band
Metropolis Arena
Skopje, Macedonia
July 2, 2017

At 76, keyboardist and pianist Chick Corea is still a force to be reckoned with in any way creatively. He has been one of jazz's most prolific artists who have continued an upward trajectory with a plethora of projects. Some of those have existed simultaneously shoulder to shoulder with each other regardless if they were diametrically opposed to one another. Not only is he a prolific artist but a consistently impressive one too. Actually, he entered the 21st century with a combination of new projects, plenty of collaborations and several impressive reunions. One of his recent reunions was the gathering of his second famed fusion band that began its life in the mid-'80s, the Chick Corea Elektric Band who were in their prime in the '80s and the '90s. Since then he reunited the band in 2004 when they recorded To the Stars and for the Rendezvous in NY when he celebrated his 60th birthday with a series of performances of his bands including the CCEB.

As with any project that has been led by Corea, what you see is what you get—ordinary people but with superhuman playing abilities. And as the band took the stage rather unpompuosly and in an unstarry manner, they were greeted with a thunderous welcome by the many in attendance. They all waved and smiled while Corea was taking photographs on his cell phone before unleashing a powerhouse performance that lasted for two hours. One cannot deny the extraordinary range and popularity that Corea's music has in this part of the world, especially when it is performed with a group of musicians as supremely gifted as this.

While the band's opus stretches to seven albums the whole concert was stretched to seven lengthy tracks. What happened during those two hours was a showcase of musical wizardry. The band reached out and easily connected with the audience and they formed a bond of trust, raised anticipation and expectation and hit the people in attendance with compositions and committed playing they expected and wanted to hear. The standard of musicianship was sensational and astonishing, where these veterans played with joyful exuberance. From the first composition the band played, "Charged Particles" until the last "Got a Match," CCEB played both the challenging parts and the collective solo acumen with astonishing virtuosity and great ease. Even more astonishing was how their collective communication and playing easily enraptured the audience that simply breathed with every nuance and change of tempo and awarded them with a rapturous applause every turn.

Corea excluded calm and smiled occasionally (they all did) as he played with his bubbly vintage synthesizers and keyboards. He was a keen listener to what the band was playing an accompanist and a wildly inventive soloist. Not only did he play the roles of an accompanist, soloist and a conductor, but he was building intensity with variations on his themes. Every member of the band had enough space for them to shine with their solo bravados but the heart of the band was clearly in the rhythm section. The inventive lines by bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl experienced rhythmic senses and mettle were constantly injecting vigor and flexibility in the overall music. The rhythm section's relentlessly inventive work lit an unmistakable fire under this group.

One of the evening's most memorable segments arrived during the encore when Corea strapped on a keytar and initiated a call-and-response by playing a few notes and having the audience sing them back. He and the audience fell into a rhythm, and then the whole band followed suit, and they furiously finished the tune along.

There was little in the way of visual aids at the concert, just the band clearly enjoying what they were doing. Actually smiling. This version of the Corea's Elektric Band is 31 years old now, but both its repertoire and its superb musicianship in any sense stay memorably fresh.

Photo Credit: Aleksandar Andonovski

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