On an unusually warm evening in October, Chick Corea and Steve Gadd arrived in Washington D.C. for a highly anticipated residency at Blues Alley.
The lineup was comprised of Luisito Quintero (percussion), Carlitos del Puerto (acoustic and electric bass), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Steve Wilson (saxophone), Steve Gadd (drums), and Chick Corea (acoustic and electric piano). Chick Corea and Steve Gadd showed that incredible technique is best exhibited in service of the composition. The symbiosis between Gadd and Corea can only be described as “telepathic.”
The arrangements allowed everything to breathe in perfect unison. Chick Corea’s intuitive acumen supporting the soloists in conjunction with the communication between the group was fantastic. Del Puerto impressed with the ease in which he moved between upright and electric bass. His phrasing was tasteful and his intonation never wavered. Gadd, whether laying down some patented grooves, or lending support seemed to always be near the center of attention without ever trying to be due to his experience, his taste, and the otherworldly control he exhibits near effortlessly. Guitarist Lionel Loueke, standing stage center, created solos that were well developed, steeped in the tradition akin to Kenny Burrell or Wes Montgomery. His playing was imbued with taste and his tone and use of effects was appropriately understated when necessary. The same can be said for saxophonist Steve Wilson. His embellishments and ideas were perfectly aligned with the rest of the group. The unit came across as a well oiled machine. The impression you have upon first hearing them is that they have logged some miles and that this is a seriously muscular unit.
The songs performed were “Humpty Dumpty,” “A Spanish Song,” “Chinese Butterfly,” “Return to Forever,” and “Spain.” “Humpty Dumpty” was the opening song, and was a precursor of the technical and emotional rollercoaster forthcoming. “A Spanish Song” showcased a tasteful guitar solo that was especially noteworthy of its construction. It was alive, living, and growing chorus after chorus. His ideas, clear and executed with razor-sharp precision were organic in presentation. At the song’s conclusion, there was a polyrhythmic flurry that beautifully led into an Afro-Cuban rhythm. The percussionist, Luisito Quintero exhibited substantial panache and feel when given the spotlight during this song. The colors he added to the evening consisted of everything from jungle sounds, rocks falling, crickets, wind, and rain. Conjuring images with a myriad of features to the forefront of your mind. “Return to Forever” gave a nod to Corea’s historic work with the band of the same name. The set took on a more “electric” vibe and the audience sang along to parts of the melody. In my notes, I described the groove as “evil, solid and hypnotic.” The encore of the evening was “Spain.” As expected, Corea, the veteran musicologist worked the audience like a puppeteer, using his skills to engage and entertain. Chick Corea cajoled the audience to participate in a class known as “ear training.” He preceded to play a melody and asked the audience to sing it back in unison. The classroom performed wonderfully, and the instructor smiled at the class with apparent satisfaction.