The Five Peace Band Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
May 1, 2009
The whole that is The Five Peace Band certainly seems to be less than the sum of its parts, at least as they played the final concert of their extended tour at The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on May 1. And the most memorable moments actually came from the least illustrious names in the group.
Bassist Christian McBride grabbed attention from the first deep note he played this spring evening and held it through intervals on stand-up, on which he displayed the same fire and ingenuity as his rhythm section partner Brian Blade. The latter's distinct impression was left almost imperceptibly as he signaled one after another dramatic turnaround with a resounding roll or rim-shot that was in stark contrast to the many other moments when he seemed to be trying to find out how softly he could stroke a drum or cymbal and still make a sound.
These two musicians looked and sounded completely immersed in the moments even as they paid close attention to each other and the rest of the group. Chick Corea spent much of his time at his keyboards casting glances across the stage, but his attentiveness never took the form of injecting a theme or thought into the mix of soloing to involve more than one musician at a time. Such democratic interaction did not occur till the encore during an insistent, almost rocking, version of an excerpt from In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), "It's About That Time," which included, with McBride and McLaughlin paired together, a tease of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love." More relish was to be had there than on the Corea/McLaughlin duet moments before.
Five Peace Band co-leader John McLaughlin was otherwise dignified to a fault this eveningparticularly during the first set. The volume on his guitar seemed too low at first, but when it rose for the second part of the show, his reliance on tremolo became a crutch, making his demonstrations of speed seem nothing more than mere show. Displaying token signs of appreciation and physical reaction to what was being played, particularly from Blade, the famous guitarist's English reserve appeared to win out when he stopped playing altogether to watch Kenny Garrett soloanother interval where more involvement might have benefited the music.
The saxophonist, like Corea and McLaughlin an alumnus of Miles Davis, seemed like the odd man out throughout the evening. His solos were infrequentthough he made an extended statement early in the second setand while he appeared to be engrossed in the sounds of his stage mates, he otherwise seemed reticent to intrude into the goings on. There were moments in Corea's "The Disguise" when space opened up for a true roundabout amongst the five as Garrett seemed poised to lead the charge (as he did like a true firebrand at his Burlington Discover Jazz appearance with his own group in 2007), but the moment passed without action.
Corea's new original composition, "Hymn to Andromeda," contained both the most and least satisfying moments of the evening. The keyboardist is a different musician when sitting and playing acoustic piano as his imagination flows with emissions of sweeping eloquence in contrast to the purely cheesy sounds he extracts from his electric keyboards, especially the synthesizers. McBride's solo on this extended piece was as articulate and passionate, with round and resonant tones, as the rest of his playing, and at these moments, the stage alignment appeared perfectly proper, the robust bassist exactly center stage just like the sound of his instrument.
Handshakes, hugs, and bows from the hip and from all involved, including stage crew and sound engineers, suggested a tight-knit fraternity rather than the fractured hierarchy on display during the two sets and two- plus hours immediately preceding.