Based on first impressions, the '70s were back at Royce Hall on Thursday night. Led by two titans of jazz fusion, that controversial sub-genre that began with Miles Davis' In a Silent Way," John McLaughlin and Chick Corea opened their North American tour with an ensemble dubbed the Five Peace Band.
The UCLA event brought the guitarist and the keyboardist together for the first time since before the two left Davis' band to further blend jazz with rock and world influences -- McLaughlin with his Mahavishnu Orchestra and Corea with Return to Forever.
But this wasn't necessarily an evening tethered to the past. Rather, this was a night where previously explored avenues in jazz were opened up and taken past top speed, thanks in no small part to the genius-level musicians Corea and McLaughlin enlisted to support their return.
A Grammy-nominated saxophonist with experience backing Davis in the '80s, Kenny Garrett nearly stole the show, most impressively during a new Corea composition, Hymn to Andromeda." A shape-shifting piece that recalled the exploratory impulses of the avant-garde era, the song spiraled through each player's virtuosic turn at the lead before reaching Garrett, who unleashed a simply devastating solo that never stopped straining for new heights.
As far out as Garrett reached, octopus-armed drummer Vinnie Colaiuta matched his intensity beat for beat.
That's what you call messing with the muse," a beaming Corea said as the crowd's ovation for Garrett held long after the song's close.