Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band is Back! Trio Dazzles in St. Petersburg Concert

chick trio new

“This is a rehearsal,” Chick Corea said Saturday night, before launching into the second of two performances in what he called a “homespun” affair.

Meaning: His relaunch of the Akoustic Band, 20 years or so after he, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl last played together unplugged, was unusually low key. No NYC Blue Note run this time. Minimal publicity.

Instead, the trio simply offered a pair of dazzling sets at the unassuming St. Petersburg College Music Center, something of a left-field choice for a major Tampa Bay area concert.

The intimate, 310-seat theater was near enough to the home of the celebrated 76-year-old pianist, composer and bandleader that he could sleep in his own bed that night. And there was solid family-and-friends support, as Corea’s wife, singer Gayle Moran, daughter Liana (also a pianist), and longtime recording-engineer associate Bernie Kirsh, were in the house.

chick trio

It was all preceded by just one day — 7 or 8 hours, Patitucci told me Saturday morning — of rehearsals, on Friday at Chick’s studio.

“If we screw up, we’re gonna stop and play it again,” Corea added. Why? Because the shows were recorded for potential release on a live album, meant to be available in time for the band’s summer tours of Europe and Australia.

Indeed, they did stop and re-do a few endings. But that didn’t disappoint the overtly supportive audience packed with musicians; the trio got a standing ovation before playing even a single note.

The three, maintaining constant eye contact with one another and seemingly having a blast despite dealing with multiple quite tricky passages, offered a mix of old and new Corea compositions along with fresh arrangements of standards.

Opener “On Green Dolphin Street” began with an unaccompanied piano solo, while the band effectively amped up the quirky accents and stops on a gently swinging “Monk’s Mood.” An inventive take on “You and the Night and the Music” that had Patitucci bowing some lines on the sort-of coda.

“It’s basically a piano piece (rearranged for trio),” Corea said about his seldom-played “Continuance,” featuring long classical lines sometimes completed or doubled by Patitucci and, later, some herky-jerky swing.

Also from the leader’s bottomless well of original compositions: “Eternal Child,” recorded by Corea’s Elektric Band, which also includes Patitucci and Weckl, and the bouncy, leapfrogging “Humpty Dumpty,” first released 40 years ago — believe it or not — on Corea’s “The Mad Hatter.” For the latter, called “kind of a jam tune” by Corea, he at one point created a sound effect by reaching into the piano case and scraping the strings, and the wizardly Weckle provided another explosive, creative solo.

Throughout, Patitucci again demonstrated the beauty and genius of his whole-bass approach to playing, delighting listeners with solos built on virtuoso runs as well as melodic bits, including, on “Eternal Child,” a quick quote of “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.”

Chick and Gayle

For the encore, Moran joined the group on the samba-driven “You’re Everything,” from Return to Forever’s revered 1973 “Light as a Feather” album. At one point, the unusually challenging melody line — originally sung by Flora Purim — had Moran briefly stopping and shouting, “These are impossible lines to sing!” She nevertheless hit most of the marks, and impressed with clear, powerful vocals. Call it a near-perfect finale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Jazz Calendar: Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea and other heavy hitters ahead

Tampa Bay area performing arts centers and other venues are putting the spotlight on a surprisingly high volume of top-shelf jazz artists this month. When it rains, it pours. On the way:

Thursday, Jan. 11 — Branford Marsalis Quartet, with the acclaimed New Orleans-born saxophonist leading a group including pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner (unless there are subs). Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30. Link

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Chick Corea Akoustic Band, with the brilliant, versatile pianist, who makes his home in Pinellas County, joined by bass great John Patitucci on bass and monster drummer Dave Weckl. Two shows — doors at (approximately) 5 & 8:30 pm. Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Sunshine Music Festival, with another great lineup of blues, rock, funk and more, again headlined by the superb Tedeschi Trucks Band, and including longrunning jazz-jam-avant trio Medeski Martin and Wood (MMW), Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, and NOLA funksters Galactic. Also: Hot Tuna, Foundations of Funk (with keyboardist/organist John Medeski from MMW, guitarist Eric Krasno from Soulive, and bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters), and the Suffers. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, 1 pm. (Dang, WHY does this fest have to be the same day as Chick Corea?) Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 (Do all of these shows HAVE to be on the same day?) — Fast-rising Canadian-born trumpeter Bria Skonberg. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 pm. Link

Also ahead in January and February:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 10 — The Ron Reinhardt Group with guitarist Adam Hawley and saxophonist Kyle Schroeder. Charlie’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Clearwater, 8 pm. Info/Reservations: 727 515-4454.
  • Friday, Jan. 12 — Serotonic album release party, with (opener) Jon Ditty. Dunedin Brewery, 9 pm. Link
  • Friday, Jan. 19 — James Suggs Plays the Music of Lee Morgan, with the popular Tampa Bay area trumpeter joined by pianist Stretch Bruyn, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin for a program of soul jazz and more. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 21 — Arbor Records artists Nicki Parrott (bass/vocals), Rossano Sportiello (piano) and Ed Metz (drums). Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 28 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Dave Stryker Quintet. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, Jan. 29 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Peter Bernstein, with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link 
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Whitney James‘ Jazz Valentine. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Tal Cohen (piano) Trio, with bassist Dion Kerr and drummer David Chiverton. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Feb. 22 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Saxophonist) Jeff Rupert Quintet with Veronica Swift (vocals), pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer, and drummer Marty Morell. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, Feb. 23 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, with guitarist Nate Najar, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and drummer Anthony Breach. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra with (vocalists) Whitney James & Chuck Wansley. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Pianist) Gabriel Hernandez Trio, with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez and drummer Dimas Sanchez. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link