Words by: Matthew Jaworski
Chick Corea and Bela Fleck :: 02.15.08 :: New Jersey Performing Arts Center :: Newark, NJ
The beautiful New Jersey Performing Arts Center served as a perfect backdrop for pianist Chick Corea and banjo stud Bela Fleck's elegant, tasteful show. Playing most of the songs from their excellent, Grammy-nominated album, The Enchantment, the two virtuosos served up a master class in musicianship, improvisation and unity. Throughout the night, the seductive melodies, swinging tempos and furious ostinatos resonated off the hall's sumptuous wood in a most seductive way.
They began with Corea's "Senorita," an exotic piece that was, by turns, seductive, funky, and scorching. The song exemplified many of the characteristics that would resound during both sets, such as Corea's haunting yet playful lines, Fleck's searing runs up and down the banjo, and both musicians' superlative ability to work with one another.
The first set was full of memorable moments, but the second song, "Menagerie," was the high point. Expanding upon the album version, Corea began by playing a melancholy solo introduction. With one hand playing the keys, he reached into the top of the piano to pluck, tap and dampen the strings. Fleck quietly crept in and soon both musicians were locked-in, playing the song's main theme in unison. Then, while one would supply the lively rhythmic foundation, the other would vamp on the melody. The song progressively increased in ferocity, with both men blasting out a flurry of interlocking notes that stunned the audience. The song abruptly ended and the crowd roared with appreciation. After sharing a fist-pound with Corea, Fleck quipped, "Well, I'm ready to go to the showers. How about you?"
The duo closed the set with Fleck's bluegrass composition, "Mountain." At the beginning, Corea stepped away from the piano, allowing Fleck to stretch out and showoff. Fleck's solo conveyed not only his supreme technical skill but also his mastery of composition. He introduced the melody, queuing Corea to take his seat. The duo brilliantly wove notes together and switched off for a number of jaw-dropping runs. As the last note rang out, the crowd cheered raucously, and the two stepped offstage for a well-deserved break.
The second set began with their unique take on the standard "Brazil." The duo deftly navigated the song's many moods, shifting from romantic to jumpy to morose, and then back again. These seamless transitions displayed their impeccable time keeping, as they pushed and pulled the tempo.
Fleck & Corea by Tobin Voggesser
After the fanciful "Children's Song #6," Corea introduced a piece from composer Henri Dutilleux, saying the title was "something in French which I can't pronounce." The song, "Prelude et Berceuse," a short, languid tune was haunting and sweeping. "Berceuse" and the following tune, "The Enchantment," were solid, slow tempo numbers that perfectly set up the bombastic finale, "Spectacle." From the outset, the song was a hypnotizing onslaught of intersecting lines. Blistering ostinatos overlapped each other, like a lightning round of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." The song ended with one final, blitzkrieg of notes, and the audience leapt to its feet for a thundering standing ovation.
Corea and Fleck only have a few dates left on this tour. If they're playing near you, do yourself a favor and go see these two masters perform their magic. You will certainly be blown away.
02.15.08 :: New Jersey Performing Arts Center :: Newark, NJ
Set I: Senorita, Menagerie, Waltz for Abby, Joban Dna Nopia, Mountain
Set II: Brazil, Children's Song #6, Berceuse, The Enchantment, Spectacle
Encore: Sunset Road
Bela Fleck & Chick Corea Tour Dates
02/29/08 Fri Symphony Hall Boston, MA
03/01/08 Sat Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
03/15/08 Sat McCoy Center for the Arts New Albany, OH
03/17/08 Mon Carolina Theatre Greensboro, NC
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