Like many electric jazz fusion bands, Chick Corea & Friends contains a lot of young, dexterous talent. Most fusion bands squander that talent on a string of long, pointless solos. Corea, by contrast, showcased that talent last night at the Bayou in his carefully structured and memorably melodic pieces.
Bassist Bunny Brunel sounded a lot like Weather Report's Jaco Pastorius as his left hand made quick slides and reverberating pushes to create striking clusters of notes. The evening's highlights came on the dueling dialogues between Brunel's bass and Corea's synthesizer. Each one would try to top the other's last phrase with a similar but bolder line.
Also impressive was newcomer Tom Brechtlein who attacked his drums with the ferocity of a Steve Gadd. He was joined by veteran Latin percussionists Don Alias and Laudir Oliveira. Trumpeter Al Vizzutti excelled at Corea's brand of progressive flamenco; reed player Steve Kujala proved less adept. Gayle Moran vainly attempted to imitate Flora Purim but produced only a strained voice and trite lyrics.
Corea never played the acoustic piano on stage but he played his electric piano as supplely and seductively as ever. More importantly, Corea was a strong but generous band leader as he skillfully guided his players through extended versions of his latest compositions and an encore version of "Spain." Chick Corea & Friends will appear at Wolf Trap June 27.