To the surprise of some, the Elektric/Akoustic association between Chick Corea, John Patitucci, and Dave Weckl now matched Return to Forever in longevity and productivity (five years, six albums). And the live (though no venue is given) Alive shows the giant steps made by Patitucci and, more so, Weckl during that time. In fact, at this juncture in their relationship, the bassist and drummer show distinctive musical identities that rival the bandleader himself. It makes for a sometimes uneasy musical alliance on these arrangements, solved in part by giving each player plenty of solos.
In 1985, Chick Corea formed a new fusion group, the Elektric Band, which eventually featured bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Frank Gambale, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and drummer Dave Weckl. To balance out his music, a few years later he formed his Akoustic Trio with Patitucci and Weckl. When Patitucci went out on his own in the early '90s, the personnel changed, but Corea continued leading stimulating groups (including a quartet with Patitucci and Bob Berg). During 1996-1997, Corea toured with an all-star quintet (including Kenny Garrett and Wallace Roney) that played modern versions of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk compositions. He remains an important force in modern jazz, and every phase of his development has been well-documented on records.
After recording a string of fusion records in the late '80s with his Elektric Band, Chick Corea returned to acoustic jazz with this trio date. Enlisting Elektric Band sidemen John Patitucci and Dave Weckl, Corea swings through ten tracks with noticeably mixed results. The leader is as romantic as ever, playing with bravado even on ballads, flawlessly executing complicated ideas, reveling in drama and melodrama. Patitucci's upright playing clearly betrays his electric pedigree; listen quickly to his solo on "So in Love" and you might mistake it for a Jaco Pastorius spot. Weckl has been accused of being a soulless technician serving questionable music in the past, and those who are predisposed against him will find nothing here to change their minds.
Chick Corea's greatest trio or small ensemble very likely is this one, with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes.Their virtuoso level of musicianship and acute listening skills are translated into this stellar recording in Belgrade in 1987.
Chick is the king of all whup-as-s when it comes to chops among monster jazz pianists. I mean, if you want to talk intense technique on the keys, no one even comes close, not Jarrett, not Mehldau, not Hancock, not Kuhn, not Oscar Peterson or Hiromi and not even Lyle Mays, just listen to the endlessly creative hundred note runs of 64ths he plays with crystal clear tone in improv all over this CD, almost blowing Vinnie out of his seat, time and time again. Now, Vinnie is already a well-known alien from another planet, such a great drummer (some say the best ever, including Zappa, who named him the prize-winner of those he played with in his autobiography) that hardly any player fazes him but Chick is out to teach the 'kid' a lesson and a lesson he does, in fact, impart. I think Chick went into this gig thinking, all-right, I've got the greatest drummer on the planet here next to the one I had before, let me throw out every lick I know, as fast and furious as I can dish it out and see what he does with it. Vinnie freezes in his seat sometimes with awe or maybe just mock awe out of respect (Chick & John McLaughlin are Vinnie's ultimate idols) but then out of nowhere he does some unbelievable things with Chick's avalanche of licks, anticipating perfectly a zillion note run with perfectly calibrated fills and those are the moments of gold this disc is legendary for among Chick & Vinnie fans.
This may not be the ultimate Chick Corea collection, but fans aren't likely to find a better one on video anytime soon. A near-complete portrait of the legendary pianist's non-fusion career is captured on the 10-DVD Rendezvous In New York boxed set, featuring performances from his three-week run of reunion concerts at the New York's Blue Note in 2003 to celebrate his 60th birthday. Those craving more after hearing the Grammy-nominated double-CD released that year under the same name will find the extended material equally satisfying. It also stands commendably on its own as a showcase for some of the most talented musicians from the past 25 years including Bobby McFerrin, Roy Haynes, Gary Burton, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Michael Brecker, Steve Gadd and John Patitucci.
Chick Corea's Elektric Band II found bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl and guitarist Frank Gambale going out on their own and being replaced by Jimmy Earl, Gary Novak and Mike Miller. Saxophonist Eric Marienthal was the only sideman from the first Elektric Band to stick with Corea. Although the new members are not as distinctive as their predecessors, the high-quality material played on this release (which includes Jimmy Heath's "CTA," "Blue Miles" and a variety of Corea originals) is very jazz-oriented and occasionally there are straightahead sections. This set is recommended even to listeners who have not yet acquired a taste for fusion.
The fifth and final recording by the original version of Chick Corea's Elektric Band is not quite up to the level of the past few sets due to some forgettable compositions. The keyboardist/leader, guitarist Frank Gambale, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal create some fine solos and the ensembles (with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl) are tight, making this a worthwhile but not essential release from the top fusion group.