To the surprise of some, the Elektric/Akoustic association between Chick Corea, John Patitucci, and Dave Weckl now matched Return to Forever in longevity and productivity (five years, six albums). And the live (though no venue is given) Alive shows the giant steps made by Patitucci and, more so, Weckl during that time. In fact, at this juncture in their relationship, the bassist and drummer show distinctive musical identities that rival the bandleader himself. It makes for a sometimes uneasy musical alliance on these arrangements, solved in part by giving each player plenty of solos. (Corea's "solos" are often introductory expositions on the theme that allow him to explore the melodies and their tangential relationships in wide cuts of the white and black keys.) Patitucci evokes an eight-legged spider pulling on the sticky strings of an upright bass, though the instrument's naturally low amplification partially obscures him in the mix (perhaps as compensation, frequent solos allow his dazzling finger work to shine front and center). As for Weckl, his performance here constitutes some of the most distinctive drumming since Chad Wackerman's contentious contributions to Frank Zappa's music. He's likely to polarize listeners into camps that either find his technique a case of inspired envelope pushing or clamorous calamity. The songs themselves are really secondary to the "sound" of this trio -- mostly standards with a couple of Corea originals. The trio had earlier presented "Morning Sprite" and "Humpty Dumpty" on Chick Corea Akoustic Band, while Corea and a different trio (Roy Haynes, Miroslav Vitous) had recorded versions of "Hackensack" and "'Round Midnight" for 1982's Trio Music, and "On Green Dolphin Street" appears on the expanded version of R.T.F. Live. Chick Corea's Akoustic Band is a worthwhile venture, if only because it gives Patitucci and Weckl a chance to show what they can do outside of a fusion setting. Some fans of their fusion work will find Alive too dry and sinewy for their tastes, while others will revel in its stripped-down athleticism, so follow your taste for traditional jazz rather than the work of Chick Corea's Elektric Band when considering this purchase.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly