In the early 90’s Airto saw an opportunity to return to his jazz roots and explore some free form playing ideas that had been kicking around for a while and called on old friends like Chick Corea, Mark Egan, Herbie Hancock and Stanley Clarke to come down to Santa Barbara and jam. Membership of some of the hottest jazz combinations of all time makes ringing up old friends a creative process in itself and Airto had little trouble persuading his friends Chick Corea, Mark Egan, Herbie Hancock and Stanley Clarke to come down to Santa Barbara and jam. Used to playing within closely defined parameters on other people’s projects the musicians were delighted to find that Airto didn’t have parts written for them. Musicians with outstanding pedigrees encouraged to play exactly the way they felt, sparring and playing off one another, experimenting with sound, yet retaining complete control over harmony and dynamics. The instinctive interplay between the musicians creates the deception that months of rehearsal went into creating this penthouse level of spontaneity. But the secret is simply years of playing together in lofts before any of them got famous. Killer Bees is the beautiful result of this gathering.
Most tracks are first or second takes with additional tracks overdubbed. Hiram Bullock’s coruscating guitar work was added later in New York. Fourth World reeds and keyboards maestro Gary Meek came over to California to contribute some wonderful saxophone to the mix. The music on the record ranges from the soulful, uplifting ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Communion’ – tracks on which Herbie Hancock spirits achingly beautiful piano playing out of the ether – to tracks like ‘Killer Bees’ and ‘Nasty Moves’ which show that rock music doesn’t have a monopoly over power and aggression. Chick Corea’s masterful electric and acoustic keyboards playing and Stanley Clarke’s upright bass playing, his first for many years, help make ‘Killer Bees’ a milestone in modern jazz and a must for fans of true free form composition.
Oh yes, the original tapes were turned down by the label who commissioned them. They ‘weren’t Brazilian enough.’ But Airto and Flora’s present record label boss, Robert Trunz, on hearing these masters of modern jazz playing exactly the way they felt, sparring and jesting musically with one another, experimenting with sound, yet retaining complete control over harmony and dynamics, dismissed the ‘Brazilian’ argument and took a world view and thought the world should be able to enjoy this classic album. Here’s your chance.
Like a fusion of the best moments of Return to Forever, Weather Report and Miles Davis circa ‘Bitches Brew’, (ex-bands of collaborators here), ‘Killer Bees’ shows that jazz in the nineties can still delight, surprise and lead by example. ‘Killer Bees’ is a buzz.
AIRTO MOREIRA Drums/percussion/vocals
STANLEY CLARKE Acoustic bass/electric bass
CHICK COREA Acoustic piano/electronic keyboards
MARK EGAN Electric, fretless bass
HERBIE HANCOCK Acoustic piano/electronic keyboards
GARY MEEK Tenor/soprano saxophones
FLORA PURIM Vocals