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His fascinating rhythms

Chick Corea and his longtime backup band cook up a dynamic, fusion-inspired musical gumbo at Catalina.

December 20, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Chick Corea was in a jovial mood when he arrived onstage Tuesday night at Catalina Bar & Grill. Dropping one-liners with the timing of a stand-up comic, he joked about his new rig of keyboards, the music and his willingness to allow cellphone calls and photographs. But when he sat down at his keyboards and began a rich, atmospheric introduction to "Trance Dance," he was all business.

Performing through Sunday with his Elektric Band and the new keyboard rig, he seemed particularly eager to explore the sonic possibilities of his two banks of instruments.

As the set continued, he became more and more adventurous, combining soaring, bent-note lines from one keyboard with bottom-scouring rhythms from another, transforming the synth-generated sounds into lush, fully alive musical textures. It was a fascinating display of Corea at his best, obviously enjoying every minute of new-found discovery.

Most of the Elektric Band's players -- saxophonist Eric Marienthal, guitarist Frank Gambale and drummer Dave Weckl -- have been with the group since it started in 1986 (bassist Victor Wooten replaced original member John Patitucci). The continuity showed in everything they played. Gambale, in particular, is well-suited for Corea's blend of bop-driven lines within a rock ambience. His solos, filled with long, wailing lines, soared across the top of Weckl's irrepressible rhythms. Marienthal's alto and soprano saxophones added a more mainstream touch to the mix, especially during his too-brief solo passages. And Wooten, who can snap and pop his electric bass strings with the finest, provided the final burst of energy to the fusion-inspired musical gumbo.

The selections ranged across the Elektric Band's two-decade history -- including "Johnny's Landing," framed as a showcase for Weckl, and whimsically retitled "Dave's Landing," as well as the Japanese-inspired "Silver Temple."

But Corea's music always seems to have an inner Iberian pulse, the cultural reverberation he referred to in his 1977 album, "My Spanish Heart."

Even within the Elektric Band's surging rhythms and roaring decibels, one could constantly sense the sunny warmth and dynamic passions that are essential elements in who Corea is as a creative jazz artist.


Chick Corea's Elektric Band

Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

When: 8:30 and 10 tonight through Saturday, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Price: $40 to $58, with a two-drink minimum

Contact: (323) 466-2210

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