Chick Corea and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
October 19, 2012
The sound itself was absolutely sublime as it emanated from the instruments of pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton
on October 19, 2012 at The Flynn Center in Burlington, Vermont. The ringing clarity of the notes pealing from Corea was perfectly in proportion to the warm glowing flow of sound as it arose from Burton. During those moments it mattered less if the hypnotic sonority was the result of the impromptu chemistry that the duo discovered at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1972, the honing of their technique in tandem over the course of the forty years since, or a combination of both.
The fact is, even as Corea and Burton shared the stage with the Harlem String Quartet during the second set of their performance, the twosome dominated the proceedings by default. No doubt, the four young musicians who helped generate the idea for this anniversary tour with their formidable contribution to Corea and Burton's Hot House
(Concord, 2012) got their share of attention, playing a Corea piece wholly by themselves and through various intervals where the piano and vibes dropped out so that cello, violins and viola were in action alone.
But even as wholeheartedly recognized by the headliners-in particular Corea, who stood and sat listening in rapt attention at various junctures-the presence of the string ensemble (violinists Ilmar Gavilan and Melissa White, violist Juan Miquel Hernandez and cellist Paul Wiancko) served the same purpose as the two-set performance and the concert as a whole: to whet the appetite to listen more to the uncommon simpatico between Corea and Burton. The Harlem String Quartet provided backdrop and counterpoint, briefly integrating itself with the two primary musicians, thus justifying Corea's reference to the six as a sextet, but the sound of the piano and vibes always took precedence-never by flash but, instead, through the distinctive personalities of the men playing them.
Nurtured over recordings and performances together in various contexts, including successive stints with saxophonist Stan Getz
, the connection between the two musicians was so deeply ingrained that, even as they explored the melodic nuances of The Beatles
' "Eleanor Rigby," there was no need to look at each other directly, even for a split second, to determine their mutual direction; to do so, in fact, might have distracted one, the other, or both-disrupting the mood of the tune or a discernible momentum, the likes of which this evening carried over from the first hour to the second.
The cumulative dynamics of the two sets, in fact, was so palpable that it failed to dissolve during the standing ovation call for an encore from the full house in this venerable venue. Corea sounded equally gracious and generous of spirit (not to mention less unctuous than usual in his wan attempts at humor earlier in the evening), when he expressed empathy to attendees who needed to leave, but went on to declare how happy the musicians were to offer more music.
That moment ratified the overall impression of the show-in itself a reminder of how appropriate is the phrase "play music." Despite the complexity of a piece like Corea's "Mozart Goes Dancing," it's rendering sounded equal parts effortlessness and replete with childlike, unself-conscious joy.