Chick Corea, Gary Burton
Hot House is the seventh recording by the duo of pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton. This time out, Corea and Burton picked pieces by some of their favorite composers - mostly from the jazz world, of course - yet chose compositions that were less than obvious. A shining example is "Can't We Be Friends," an obscure standard closely associated with Art Tatum. Though it's a pop song, Tatum completely reinvented it in his image. In Corea's arrangement, the duo walks a balanced line between classic American pop, jazz modernism, and the legendary pianist's swinging take on stride. The reading of "Eleanor Rigby" commences with an elliptical piano intro; it's clean, graceful, and gives way to Burton's statement of the melody before the pair moves into a more uptempo engagement with the tune's harmonics. Tadd Dameron's "Hot House" is a conscious nod to the flurried exchanges between Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and is nearly pointillistic in its focus; there are gorgeous arpeggios and striking solos - particularly Burton's. The inclusion of Thelonious Monk's "Light Blue" is wonderful. One of the most under-performed of all Monk's compositions, its solemn yet tender emotive tone and brief minor lyric statements are extrapolated upon by Corea to add another melodic statement onto the second chorus. Other standouts include a gracious version of Bill Evans' "Time Remembered," a haunting rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Chega de Saudade," and a lengthy, massively improvisatory version of Kurt Weill's "My Ship." The set closer, "Mozart Goes Dancing," is the only original included on the set. Written by Corea, it features the pair in the company of the Harlem String Quartet and reflects Corea's dexterity as a composer who uses rhythmic and lyric interplay to extend the reach of classical harmony toward jazz's realm of immediacy. It also contains a healthy dose of his playful sense of humor. The duo's approach in wedding mainstream and modern jazz (often inside the same tune) will appeal mostly to fans of the duo's previous six recordings. That said, Hot House is a further example of the nearly symbiotic language they've developed over the past 40 years, and is a stellar example of masterful dialogic articulation and execution. This is collaboration in its purest and and most elegant form.
All Music Guide
With a partnership lasting longer than most marriages, pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton know what it takes to keep things fresh. Since the release of Crystal Silence (ECM, 1973), they have toured virtually every year, but record far less frequently, with only six albums to their credit, most recently The New Crystal Silence (Concord, 2008). With the pianist especially busy these days-his The Continents: Music for Jazz Quartet & Chamber Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon, 2012) just out and a live set from his 2011 Return to Forever IV tour, The Mothership Returns (Concord, 2012), on the near horizon-anytime Corea enters the studio with Burton is worthy of celebration.
Traditionally, the duo has focused largely on music from the pianist's pen and from Burton collaborators like bassist Steve Swallow and composer/arranger Michael Gibbs. Shifting gears for Hot House, the pair covers music from the 1940s through the 1960s, by well-known names ranging from pianists Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Tadd Dameron and Thelonious Monk to The Beatles' Paul McCartney and Antonio Carlos Jobim-though the songs chosen by the vibraphonist and pianist are a little further off the beaten path.
While not exactly unfamiliar, "Eleanor Rigby" hasn't received much interpretation in the jazz world. Still, after Tatum's jovial opener, "Can't We Be Friends"-the pianist moving from facile swing to strong-handed stride-it demonstrates Corea and Burton's seemingly effortless ability to draw music from external sources into their own complex yet accessible musical universe. A relentless left-hand pattern gives the song a far brighter pulse than the original, with Corea's right hand mirroring Burton before leading to a solo that demonstrates how, as he approaches 70 in 2013, the vibraphonist has lost none of his impeccable ability to shape flawless long-form narratives with exhilarating spontaneity. Corea, too, solos with the same kind of reckless in-the-moment spirit.
Two Jobim tracks run the gamut from the effervescent "Chega de Saudade" to "Once I Loved," which begins in ethereal atmospherics, but assumes a more propulsive stance in short order. It's no surprise to hear Corea play with quirky tongue in cheek on Monk's "Light Blue," but Burton is equally idiosyncratic, while a relatively brief look at Dameron's fiery title track is the result of Burton and Corea being uncertain as to who is to solo first, with a result that's all the more impressive for their ability to interact in rapid-fire fashion without ever stepping on each other's toes.
Two Corea originals close the set: "My Ship" has been expanded significantly from Expressions: Solo Piano (GRP, 1994), a brief descending pattern redolent of "Falling Alice," from the pianist's The Mad Hatter (Polydor, 1978). Augmented by The Harlem String Quartet, the episodic "One for Mozart" harkens back to the duo's Lyric Suite for Sextet (ECM, 1982), while presaging the duo's next CD, which will return to that expanded format.
Another CD already in the planning stages is terrific news from one of the longest-lasting partnerships in jazz. Familiarity needn't always breed contempt and Hot House proves it needn't spoil the thrill of discovery either-or the ability to just have some flat-out fun.
- John Kelman
Published: March 28, 2012