Chick Corea's The Vigil
(Ronnie Scott's, 6th March 2013, second night, first house. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
It was quite a coup for Ronnie Scott's to lure Chick Corea back to the club for two nights and four shows, with his new band.
Corea - who explains some of the background above - was presenting new compositions, book-ended by an opener, Tadd Dameron's Hot House, and as closer, an encore - which the audience was instructed/required to bawl into existence - Spain. The opener and the closer were infectiously busy, familiar to the band, and cheered to the echo. The new original compositions which formed the bulk of the set are at a far earlier stage of development. For new work to exist, it has to be born first, and much of the set very much had that feel of exploration, work in progress.
The strongest impressions were coming from the right hand side of the stage. (sorry if that sounds like describing the slope at Lord's). With drummer Marcus Gilmore, every rim-shot, every rhythmic pattern has a purpose, a creativity about it, he has a fascinating way of working across and around the pulse. And it's easy to understand why Corea - like Bireli Lagrene and John McLaughlin - wants electric bass hero Hadrien Feraud in his band. He's just a mesmerizing talent with an ability to surprise, create interest, divert, wrong-foot, groove hard, and inspire.
In other contexts - particularly on soprano sax - Tim Garland thinks in long complex phrases. In this band, however, he solos as listener, responder, not wanting to miss out on a single one of the deluge of ideas brimming up around him, enveloping him.
To me, it didn't seem to be guitarist Charles Altura's night. Everything was impeccable, voiced, flighted, his big Tal Farlow hands enable him to achieve amazing feats without apparent effort, but he seemed a little detached. Maybe on another night.... And further over to the left, there was magic in Chick Corea's expansive piano introductions, for example to Pledge for Peace,but the 71-year old did seem to be pacing himself during the first house, keeping something in reserve for the remainder of the evening.
A privilege to be there; the Ronnie's staff managed the tricky logistics of a two-house night with tact and care. It will be interesting to encounter this new repertoire again, and to get more familiar with it when it has been out, lived and travelled a bit more.
This gig was reviewed in The Guardian, the Financial Times, the Evening Standard, The Times (paywall) and Jazzwise