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CHICK COREA AKOUSTIC BAND

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Chick Corea, John Pattitucci, Dave Weckl
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 and uncompressed stereo
Video:  Full screen color
Studio:  Geneon Entertainment
Features:  See Review
Length:  119 Minutes
Release Date:  October 4, 2005

Film ***1/2

Chick Corea has been a force in modern jazz since joining the Miles Davis group in the 1960’s.  After leading acoustic trios with his breathtaking technique and intriguing compositions such as “Windows” from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, he formed the seminal fusion ensemble Return to Forever with bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke.  This ensemble also introduced AL DiMeola to the world and featured the excellent funk-jazz drumming of Lenny White.  After this group ran its course, he formed a new fusion band called the Elektric Band with drummer Dave Weckl and bassist John Pattitucci, both of whom were rising stars with their impeccable timekeeping and urgent improvisation.   These qualities meshed well with Corea’s frenetic energy and compositional ambition and made the band a popular artist on the new GRP label for many years.  Corea reveals in the interview on this DVD that he really wanted a trio and only decided to add Frank Gambale on guitar and Eric Merienthal on sax after the trio had worked together for several months. 

Toward the end of the life of that band, Corea decided to do two unplugged albums (one live) with this rhythm section and appropriately called it the Akoustic Band.  While I still enjoy the Elektric recordings, the Akoustic ones left my collection long ago for two reasons.  One, I cannot recognize one note of any song as belonging to the tune for which it is named.  Corea could have called them originals and I don’t know if anyone would have thought otherwise.  Their rendition of Autumn Leaves only contained the first four notes of the melody, and hardly any other trace of that great tune.  The other problem, which also came up on Pat Metheny’s otherwise excellent “Question and Answer” trio album, is that the bass is almost inaudible.  Since Corea originally spotted Pattitucci playing acoustic bass, and his skill on the instrument is unquestioned, I don’t understand the poor mixing.  Technology allows bassists to combine a microphone with a pickup to capture the true sound of their instrument, so that is no excuse.  Fortunately, the magic of DVD allows all instruments to be hear, and John’s bass is loud and proud in this concert presentation.

This DVD of a concert filmed in Munich, Germany on July 12, 1986 features a strangely sedate rendition of one of Corea’s best compositions, “Spain.”  I would love to hear this trio really burn on that particular tune, but it did not happen here, though this version is interesting in its own way.    Overall, the concert is extremely listenable, energetic, and most of the tunes can be at least somewhat recognized in these improvisations. 

Song list:  Chasin’ the Trane, How Deep is the Ocean, On Green Dolphin Street, Sophisticated Lady, Morning Sprite, Humpty Dumpty, Round Midnight, Rhythm-A-Ning, Quartet No. 2 Part 2, Spain.

Video ***1/2

No complaints, excellent for an 80’s video shoot, few if any artifacts and the camera angles vary enough to make it interesting. 

Audio ***

We can hear John Pattitucci clearly on this DVD, which is one of the best reasons to get the DVD.  Dave Weckl’s drumming is also well-mixed in both the non-compressed stereo and 5.1 mixes, another great feature.  The piano was recorded with a strangely “tinny” tone, and Corea’s left hand can barely be heard, but his flamboyant style does shine through well and the odd sound and balance is probably due more to his style of playing than an engineering snafu.  And he is playing a Yamaha grand, which is a piano known for its brightness.

Features **

None other than biographies of the musicians and a rare video interview with Chick, who makes some interesting points about composing music, such as the misconception that a composer has to spend hours in pain to write.  Corea has no problem writing great music in minutes.  He admits he has trouble talking about making music because it is all he has ever done and it comes naturally.  He also discussed the great relationship with John and Dave and how he came to originally meet them and recruit them for his trio.   Interviews with them would have been a nice addition. 

Summary:

Superior to the CD releases of the Chick Corea Akoustic Band, this DVD will please any fan of piano jazz.

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