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Chick Corea Interview - 5 Peace Band Preview

By Mark Towns
Published: Mar 30 2009, JazzHouston

Chick Corea & John McLaughlin’s new super group Five Peace Band have been performing to sold out crowds since kicking off their U.S./North American tour on March 19. Featuring co-leaders Chick Corea on piano & keyboards and John McLaughlin on electric guitar, their all-star support team includes Kenny Garrett on saxophone and bassist Christian McBride. Although Houston radio ads have been touting Vinnie Colaiuta as the drummer, it will actually be Brian Blade on drums for the Houston date and for the remainder of the tour. (Vinnie did the first week with the band but Brian took over on March 26.)

The quintet’s double-album, Five Peace Band Live, which was recorded during their European tour last fall, will be released in summer 2009 by Concord Records, but the double-disc CD will be made available early at performances as well as the band’s website ( to coincide with the tour.

Corea and McLaughlin performed together on Miles Davis’ classic Bitches Brew, and each went on to become top leaders of the seventies jazz fusion movement. Corea’s Return to Forever and McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra pushed jazz to new realms while performing to stadium-sized audiences and selling records albums in rock star-like quantities.

Since the fusion era, both Corea and McLaughlin have led amazingly prolific careers, with a creative output which spans many genres of music in a host of different musical settings. At Five Peace Band’s Houston show on Wednesday April 1, expect to hear highly evolved music that includes nods to Miles Davis and Joe Zawinul (most shows have included “In a Silent Way”) as well as sophisticated acoustic jazz, fiery jazz/rock/funk, intimate duets, and Corea and McLaughlin classics. To give you an idea of how the band stretches out on this gig, check out this statistic: most of the tour’s sets contain an average of only six songs, yet the shows have ranged from two to three hours in length! Hold on to your hats, it’s gonna be a good one.

Interview with Chick Corea

MT: I'm excited about your show!

CC: Yeah. Me, too!

MT: Are you easily bored?

CC: That’s a strange question (laughs).

MT: Well, you’re always doing something new. You’re all over the map. And it’s always great, of course.

CC: Oh, I get what you’re saying. All of my serious projects keep me excited and interested and keep me being a kind of a student. I learn from all the guys I play with. I love to learn some new stuff. Like, I hadn’t played with John in so many years and it’s such a refreshing thing to play with such a great musician. So my schedule is kind of varied and exciting.

MT: What’s your favorite John McLaughlin recording?

CC: I really love everything I’ve heard from John. You know, my wife, Gayle Moran-Corea, sang with John in the seventies. She was in his second version of Mahavishnu with Jean Luc-Ponty and the band with the strings. So together Gayle and I had (recently) been listening to “Apocalypse” – the recording John did with the London Symphony.

MT: And with Narada (Narada Michael Walden on drums), right?

CC: Yeaaaahh. And then the one I think was done shortly after that called “Visions of the Emerald Beyond.” Both of those Gayle’s on but they’re two of my favorite recordings of John from that era.

MT: Is Five Peace Band doing anything from those?

CC: You know, we talked about possibly doing some of the seventies music, but then when we got into actually selecting what we wanted to bring to the band, it turned out to be relatively new music. I wrote three new pieces and John brought in some songs that he wanted to play from his “Floating Point” record and his “Industrial Zen” records, which are relatively new records of his.

MT: Kenny Garret’s a great player, but why did you even get a sax player or a third lead soloist on this?

CC: I don’t know, it’s just like I thought it would make a great compliment, you know. In actual fact, it turned out incredible because John and Kenny have developed a wonderful rapport on stage.

MT: Had they played together before?

CC: No, this was the first time they’ve played together. Also, it’s the first time John’s played with Christian (McBride, bass) as well. And I think when we come to Houston it’s gonna be with Brian Blade on the drums. And it’s the first time John’s played with Brian, too. You know, we’re all kind of birds of a feather—a very compatible bunch of guys.

MT: Is Christian playing mostly electric, acoustic, or what?

CC: About half and half. He’s incredible on the electric. This was my first time to really play with Christian on electric bass. He’s something.

MT: How much rehearsal did you guys have?

CC: The rehearsal went by like a whiff. I think we had a day, a day and a half of rehearsal, something like that. But really, this kind of music gets fully worked out playing it in performance, and that’s really how the music develops.

MT: So is it different every night?

CC: Absolutely. Absolutely different every night.

MT: What’s the length of the show?

CC: Well, let me see, now… sometimes we play with an intermission, sometimes we play straight through. The other night we played straight through and someone told me the show was two hours and 45 minutes. It depends if there’s a curfew with the venue or not. But the band likes to stretch out, and if the audience--you know, they surprise me with the energy they have to take in all this stuff that we throw at them.

MT: What’s changed since the first shows so far?

CC: Oh, well, everything. (laughs) One of the games is we like to challenge one another.

MT: A friend wanted me to ask you: Do you listen to “Now he Sings, Now he Sobs?” (1968 Chick Corea Trio album with Miroslav Vitous – bass, and Roy Haynes – drums).

CC: Well, no. Why would I listen to it? I mean… (laughs).

MT: This is a question from a buddy of mine—my editor, actually.

CC: No, I understand. I had an occasion to listen to it once recently. I’m trying to remember what—it was up for a compilation. I put it on, and I noticed that the mix sounded monaural to me. It didn’t sound very stereo to me, and I didn’t like the sound of it. So I thought that at some point I would love to go back and get those original tapes and remix it.

MT: Do you have any plans to record again with Roy Haynes?

CC: No, not at the present, but we love playing with one another and I hope to play with him again. He’s a real busy man these days. He’s getting up in age, but he ain’t slowin’ down, man.

MT: What’s on the agenda for next year?

CC: It’s really this year I’m still focused on. I’ve got some piano solo touring I’m gonna do in Europe this summer. And then in the fall, I’m putting together a new version of a trio with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, and we’ll then go around and put some new music together. So those are the two projects -- and I’ve got some duet projects I’m gonna do with Gary Burton. And I think I’m gonna work some more, probably next year, with Bobby McFerrin.

MT: Ah, nice. Is the trio stuff with Lenny and Stanley acoustic?

CC: We’ve got various gigs. Some of them—we haven’t got it all worked out, yet, but some of them are gonna be just acoustic. And others will have electric instruments.

MT: After you performed with the Foo Fighters (at the Grammy’s in 2004), did a bunch of rock bands approach you and want you to play with them?

CC: That was a lot of fun. Not really, man. There haven’t been that many calls from the rock n rollers. We almost sat in with the Allman Brothers the other week, but I couldn’t make it up to New York.

MT: You’d fit right in with the jam band rock circuit, right?

CC: Yeah. Give me a Rhodes and a Mini-Moog, man, I’ll be there!

Date: Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Location: Verizon Wireless

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