When visiting an art museum, you can view completed paintings and sculptures, fully appreciating their beauty and the effort the artist spent in creating the work. Viewing the Chick Corea/Christian McBride/Brian Blade trio at Chicago's Orchestra Hall on October 8 was akin to watching an artist sculpt or paint artwork right before your eyes.
From the beginning, Corea stressed that this tour was about improvisation; he half-jokingly told the near-full house that the trio devised their setlist while sitting in Chicago traffic earlier that day. While Corea, McBride, and Blade appeared casual, as if this were a friendly jam session, their advanced technical skills and ability to play a wide variety of music exemplified their superior technique.
Starting with Kurt Weill's "This Is New," Corea impressed with his judicious use of dissonance, the off-center chords somehow working well with the bass and percussion. As the tempo rapidly changed, McBride and Blade made the transition seem easy. Both wore wide grins through this number as well as through virtually the entire concert, displaying how much they clearly enjoyed playing together. Corea's intricate playing complemented Blade's dazzling drum solos, with Blade doing the work of multiple drummers as he pounded the skins. McBride's fingers flew up and down the stand-up bass's neck, his solo demonstrating his command of the instrument.
The next number, preludes from Alexander Scriabin's Opus 11, seems like an odd choice for a jazz concert. Yet the song benefited from a jazz arrangement, with Blade using even the sides of the drums and handclaps to establish a Latin rhythm. McBride filled in with subtle yet intricate bass lines, with Corea anchoring the ambitious song. Then the group ventured into more familiar territory with Thelonious Monk's "Work," with McBride's heavier bass lines lending a bluesier tone. Corea played trills, again using dissonance in a sly manner. Perhaps more than any other song, "Work" showed how the trio performs perfectly in sync, Corea injecting subtle fills while McBride and Blade duetted. With just slight nods, the trio communicated with each other as to how to proceed.