Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter and Al DiMeola, all of whom played key roles in the birth of jazz-rock fusion in the early '70s, played individual sets Thursday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion and then joined forces for a truly climactic encore. While all three displayed dazzling instrumental technique, only Shorter invested that technique with dramatic substance and emotional resonance.
DiMeola, who played in Corea's Return to Forever band, opened the show with an unaccompanied set on acoustic guitar. He layered tricky arpeggios and reeled off Spanish guitar figures at incredible speeds, but obliterated any sense of melody or song shape in the process. Then Shorter, cofounder of Weather Report, led his quartet through his pieces from last year's "Atlantis" album. Switching between tenor and soprano sax, Shorter firmly established his striking melodic themes and then filled them up with his massive tone and bluesy feeling through relentless variations.
Corea's new quartet, the Elektric Band, played his newest tunes with fast unison parts, southern shifts and lots of ornamentation. Corea showed his old knack for improvising delightful melodies and harmonies, but he tended to play too many notes with too little sense of the feeling behind them. Only when Shorter joined him for a sax-piano duet ballad did the music acquire a real weight. Shorter, DiMeola, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl then joined Corea for a rousing version of his signature tune, "Spain.