Chick & Hiromi: Duet (2009)
Combined with his abilities as a soloist, Chick Corea's uncanny accompanist's instinct for supporting and focusing the spotlight on another player's efforts has produced celebrated duets with everyone from Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock to John McLaughlin and Bela Fleck. With Hiromi Uehara he has done it again.
Duet captures the two pianists in an engagement at Tokyo's Blue Note club in September of 2007, and finds them repeatedly achieving ecstatic heights of ingenuity and inventiveness. At first blush the opening tracks might feel too quiet as an introduction to the Sturm und Drang of this dynamic pairing, but if the anticipated energy, the bounding, rampaging, red-eyed thunder-and-lightning this partnership promises to deliver is not immediately evident as the first of two discs opens with Bill Evans' "Very Early" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive," don't touch that dial...
Once these two get their hands warm on "Déjà Vu," the first of Hiromi's contributed compositions, they ignite things with a respectfully deconstructed version of "Fool on the Hill" that hews neatly to the lilting Lennon/McCartney melody line and harmonies right up until the closing three bars, when Corea unexpectedly plucks a few portentous notes inside the piano. The cubist conflagration long-time Corea fans perennially yearn for then flares dramatically on a joyful, abstracted version of his enduring "Humpty Dumpty," ending with his throwing down fistfuls of Cecil Taylor-esque tennis-ball chords, and his protégé enthusiastically throwing them right back. When he next engages Hiromi in some gravity-defying rhythmning on Thelonious Monk's "Bolivar Blues," the first disc's final track, it is plain she's in a mood to play.
A meandering "Windows" opens the second disc, but then it's off again on a stunning steeplechase of a composition, Hiromi's "Old Castle, by the River, in the Middle of a Forest," featuring some vintage unison dressage. By the time the last notes are sounded they are both energized and ready for a quirkily non-traditional distillation of "Summertime," using the Gershwin standard to continue widening the degree of abstraction as they travel through a sublimely ordered track sequence (a good argument in favor of albums, and against selective MP3 downloads). Musically, the end of "Summertime" dovetails into Hiromi's evanescent "Place to Be," which manages to slow the heart rate a few more beats per second before the disc concludes with a free-playing romp on Corea's "Children's Song #12," re-titled "Do Mo," and finally, an off-kilter rendition of "Concierto de Aranjuez/Spain" to provide an insouciantly perfect coda.
Track Listing: Very Early; How Insensitive; Déjà Vu; Fool on the Hill; Humpty Dumpty; Bolivar Blues; Windows; Old Castle, by the River, in the Middle of a Forest; Summertime; Place to Be; Do Mo (Children's Song #12); Concierto de Aranjuez/Spain.
Personnel: Chick Corea: piano; Hiromi Uehara: piano.