One of the most appealing things about Robben Ford, Jimmy Haslip and Vinnie Colaiuta’s first album as Jing Chi (Jing Chi, Tone Centre, TC40212, 2001), was how incredibly restrained and tasteful the performances were, coming from three players well-known for incredible chops. Mind you, this should come as no surprise, especially for fans of Ford, who has shaped a career out of the philosophy that "less is more."
When Jing Chi took the stage at Yoshi’s in Oakland in December of 2002, where their latest album, Jing Chi Live! was recorded, Haslip had some very simple ideas in mind. "Why not stretch out and see what happens?", said Haslip, "Don’t hold back. If you hear something, just go there."
And go there they do. While the four pieces from the studio album and four new tunes are given extended runs, the same taste and restraint is evident throughout. This is not merely an exercise in demonstrating instrumental prowess, as so many supergroups of this nature do (Vital Tech Tones comes immediately to mind); these are three musicians (supplemented, on keyboards, by the under-rated and equally talented Otmaro Ruiz), at the top of their game, working together to serve the music.
Ford demonstrates, as always, that while his roots are in the blues, he has the jazz vocabulary to make more harmonically interesting solos. As opposed to his own band, The Blue Line, with Jing Chi he gets to work with more complex changes, allowing him to create more diverse solos. Haslip provides a rock solid bottom, and Colaiuta displays a power ("That Road") and subtlety ("Blues MD") that you rarely get to hear from him in a single setting. Ruiz, a solid accompanist, contributes some remarkably good solos as well.
If you own Jing Chi and like it, then you owe it to yourself to check out Jing Chi Live!. If you haven’t heard Ford, Haslip and Colaiuta work together before, then this is a terrific place to start. Highly recommended.