Chick Corea is one of the most fascinating figures in all of jazz fusion and avant garde music. Working with Miles Davis on albums like Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, Corea experimented and added a sense of originality and innovation to the recordings. His use of the Fender Rhodes electric piano was particularly noteworthy.
After his work with Davis, Corea formed several other projects. Circle was a free jazz ensemble that included Dave Holland on bass. Return to Forever was an avant garde ensemble that included a host of members and initially had a Latin jazz flavour. After the end of Return to Forever, Corea formed the Chick Corea Elektric Band.
The Elektric Band was pointed in a different direction in comparison to Return to Forever. Many would consider the group, which formed in 1986, to be a band firmly ensconced in the 80s sound. In 2004, however, the Chick Corea Elektric Band recorded To the Stars as a record inspired by Corea’s association with the Church of Scientology.
Despite having escaped the 80s and, perhaps more importantly, that 80s sound, there is something refreshing in the weirdness of The Chick Corea Elektric Band – Live at the Maintenance Shop. The DVD features a concert recorded at Iowa State University in 1987 and captures Corea, drummer Dave Weckl, and bassist John Patitucci in all of their oft-cheesy, always-compelling magnificence.
Keyboard-led jazz fusion can be an interesting form of music, especially with a master like Corea at the helm. The songs are brave, funky, and don’t play by any rules. Corea commands his keys, taking hold of his instrument and alternating between beating the ivories senseless and tinkering with sounds only dogs can hear.
All but one of the tunes comes from the band’s self-titled 1986 debut. The music is courageous and experimental, but it can seem unfashionable at times. The visuals are less than convincing, although some of the throwback 80s fade-outs and camera angles were entertaining.
Fans of the Chick Corea Elektric Band will find plenty to be pleased with here, however, and that’s really who this DVD is geared towards. Taken before the release of Light Years, Live at the Maintenance Shop features tracks like “India Town” and “Rumble” that call another era to attention and resonate with vibrancy and skill. There is no question that Corea’s ensemble is gifted.
Drummer Weckl is dexterous and skilled, changing the sounds of his percussion to fit each musical moment and keeping faultless time on the often-tricky compositions. Bassist Patitucci might look silly swinging his bass around, but his smile is contagious and there is a sense of joy to his performance. Corea is, of course, a master at what he does. His command over the keys is given plenty of close-ups and he stretches the boundaries of his instrument in ways that few others dare to try.
All in all, this five song set will prove pleasing to fans of Corea’s avant garde jazz ensemble. It contains many impressive moments and the musical proficiency cannot be denied. At times, however, the program sounds and looks out-of-date. The Chick Corea Elektric Band – Live at the Maintenance Shop DVD may not win many new fans, but it will certainly satisfy those already familiar with the group’s brilliant work.