Concert Review: Chick Corea & Bela Fleck

Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, March 29

Seeing either one of these musical geniuses in such an intimate setting would have been mind-blowing enough, but this was like watching two wizards casting their most powerful spells for public consumption. Sitting facing off, Corea behind his grand piano, Fleck with his banjo propped on one knee, the duo revisited most of their 2007 Grammy-winning collaboration The Enchantment. On songs such as opener “Señorita,” they didn’t so much play as they did engage in musical conversation, speaking and listening to one another, responding to the interchange so strongly after “Menagerie” that Corea jumped off his bench to fist-bump Fleck.

Even on the delicate “Waltse for Abby,” Fleck took the banjo to otherworldly places, his fingers dancing across the fingerboard without disturbing the song’s beauty. On the inquisitive “Joban Dna Nopia” Corea played snapping, bouncy chords, allowing Fleck to roll over the top. And musical boundaries were crossed on “Mountain,” as Corea jazzed up Fleck’s Appalachian melody.

Things really got fun after intermission with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” the two musicians trading off each verse before sharing the chorus. They dipped and darted like hummingbirds chasing one another on “Bicyclops,” Fleck leading the way while Corea followed his every hairpin turn with an innate precision. Corea then took “The Enchantment” on a dramatic exploration before picking Fleck up for the return voyage. For something entitled “Children’s Song #6,” the song featured some of the most serious work of the night, although “Spectacle” was exactly that, with both men sending notes cascading through the air, before the duo ended with the classic “Brazil.”

The pairing of piano and banjo could definitely make for an odd couple, but in the hands of these masters, the two instruments were in complete conjunction. Finer musicianship you will not see on a stage in Las Vegas this year. ★★★★☆

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