In terms of temporal anticipation‚ I don't know if I had ever been looking forward to a show for so long as this. I think they announced this gig in February of 2008 -- c'mon‚ who makes plans a year and a half in advance? Either way‚ with a lineup as ridiculous as this quintessential soul-squadron‚ expectations were lofty to say the least. I had only seen John McLaughlin once before‚ six years back when he had played the Flynn with Zakir Hussain on the Remember Shakti tour. That show caused some permanent interior melting on my part‚ so I was well aware of the power beheld unto the wizard McLaughlin. And of course‚ as a pianist myself‚ Chick Corea is one of those Mount Rushmore faces of keys players‚ and sometimes his solo from "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy" cycles in my head when I'm out running. Kenny Garret is a modern legend on sax‚ but I was unaware of the incredible Brian Blade on drums before the gig. I couldn't remember where I knew Christian McBride from until after the show when a friend reminded me of The Philadelphia Experiment. Anywho‚ I was pumped walking in‚ yet still naïve to the degree of mesmerizing I was about to undergo.
Now first off‚ there were some slow parts to the show. They played two 90-minute sets‚ with a mix of Chick and McLaughlin originals‚ and‚ yes‚ some were more delicately enchanting than others. So I did see a few heads nodding out during the show‚ which admittedly must have been quite peaceful for those involved‚ but at the same time left them unaware of the full spectrum of the musical journey that was presented throughout the evening. I myself was spellbound. In fact‚ it was during one of the slower cuts‚ (I'm running blind on song titles‚ sorry) that I noticed how much John McLaughlin looks like Timothy Leary. My mind began to drift as I realized the similar effects both men have had on my life‚ and of the interconnectedness of their goals and creations. Suddenly‚ a McLaughlin lick caused a funnel of endorphins to drip down my spine‚ and as my eyes came back into focus it seemed like he was looking right at me‚ all too well aware of the internal explorations his string-massage can induce.
On the faster tunes‚ the flips between guitar and keys were untouchable. Both of these super-humans have only progressed since they recorded together with Miles Davis on In a Silent Way 40 years ago‚ and they gelled with this band of relative "kids" in a whole new yet equally as impressive fashion. I wish there had been a little bit more room for Kenny Garrett to have gotten in‚ for his interplay with the elders was seamless. Brian Blade was a machine‚ and somehow managed to hold the fusion core together. (And by fusion core‚ I don't mean a core group of fusion players; I literally mean a nuclear power plant's explosive inner-core.) He plays a small‚ basic kit‚ but just smoothly as all hell beats the living shit out of it. Amazing. Yet amongst all these sonic-warriors‚ the one person on that stage who made me sputter grunts of quasi-orgasmic bliss was Christian "Mother F-Ing" McBride. When he touches that bass‚ it looks like he's petting a kitten‚ but sounds like he's spanking Miles' mama. I talked to three separate friends after the show who had seen McBride perform elsewhere recently‚ and all three separately said‚ "The man is a beast." He is. Total beast. Takes no prisoners. On paper‚ he actually seemed like an unlikely fit for this band‚ but on stage I realized the group was unreal instead. Beethoven and Wagner never played together‚ nor did Mahler and Strauss‚ but I'd take these guys over either of those dreams anyway.