When Chick Met Bela — Corea & Fleck at Ruth Eckerd Hall
Call it a dream concert deferred: Five months after a winter storm forced banjo wizard Bela Fleck and virtuoso pianist Chick Corea to miss their flight to Florida and consequently postpone their show at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall, they played to a packed house at the acoustically pristine hall.
The show was a long night’s worth of pure enchantment, delicate beauty and sheer musical muscle. The two, largely focusing on music from “The Enchantment,” their 2007 duo CD, offered often energetic compositions informed by jazz, Latin and classical styles, occasionally tinged with strains of Appalachian music and pop lyricism. Their performance, spread out over two sets, was highly interactive, with lots of room for arrangement tweaking and hearty soloing. The two sometimes locked in together, and sometimes exchanged brilliant volleys, occasionally tossing in quotes from familiar tunes; at one point Fleck made multiple references to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”
In addition to the Corea-penned title track from “Enchantment” and his “Children’s Song #6,” the pair offered Fleck’s “Menagerie”; “Waltse for Abby,” dedicated to his wife and his newborn son, Juno Jasper Washburn Fleck; “Sunset Road”; and “Spectacle,” among other pieces from the album.
There were surprises, too, including a gorgeous version of Stevie Wonder’s multicolored “Overjoyed” and, during the first of two encores, a guest shot by Corea’s longtime (42 years) wife Gayle Moran, the former Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra singer. She delighted the appreciative crowd with a high-flying version of the standard “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” also dedicated to Fleck’s young son.
In some respects, the show felt like an intimate experience — two master musicians, making musical connections and pushing each other on to ever-greater explorations, and just coincidentally letting all of us in on their not-so-secret musical mind meld. Here’s hoping we’re again given that privilege one day. Meanwhile, word is that a concert recording is in the works. With any luck, a DVD will follow.