Time flies when you're having fun. 2007 marked the 35th anniversary of pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton's duo, and 2009 will be the 30th anniversary of the pair's first album, Crystal Silence
To celebrate the occasions, Corea and Burton have released a double-disc, quasi-greatest hits collection recorded live in Australia and Norway in 2007. The first disc finds the duo in concert with the Sydney Symphony orchestra, while the second features them on their own at the Molde Jazz Festival.
Both performances are outstandingvigorous and exhilarating, still breathtakingly inventive after all these years and packed with incident and surprise. The biggest surprise on the first disc, of course, is the symphony orchestra, in extended settings of five staple Corea compositions. The icing on the cake is the caliber of the arrangements, which are by British reed player Tim Garland. Garland has already proved himself a gifted symphonic orchestrator, most notably on his own If The Sea Replied (Sirocco, 2005), and herewith an insight into Corea's work gained as a member of the pianist's Origin bandhe excels himself again.
Garland's arrangements aren't shy of making themselves felt, but he doesn't, mercifully, attempt to deconstruct or reconfigure Corea's sublimely lyrical material. Instead, the orchestra frames the themes, provides way stations for the two soloists, and creates a wonderfully rich tonal palettefrom pastoral woodwinds to grand, sweeping strings and roaring brass. The nearly 14-minute setting of "La Fiesta" is a special delight; bold and majestic, poised between formality and abandon, a brilliant evocation of hot sun and high passion. In the Sydney Opera Concert Hall it must have sounded awesome, and this fine recording does it proud.
The Molde concert was an altogether more intimate affair, performed in a hall holding around 500 people, with the two instruments miked up close, warm and glowing. (One track, Corea's "Senor Mouse," was recorded at a later concert in the Canary Isles).
Although Corea and Burton must have played some of these tunes hundreds of times, even without the stimulus of a special setting they attack each one as though for the first timewith zest, fresh-minted melodicism, and a degree of mutual empathy that only comes after years of collaboration. In its own way, this is as astonishing a performance as that with the Sydney Symphony, and is utterly spellbinding.
An altogether blissful couple of hours.
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CD1: Brasilia; Crystal Silence; La Fiesta; Duende; Love Castle. CD2: No Mystery; Se
Chick Corea: piano; Gary Burton: vibraphone; Sydney Symphony orchestra, conductor Jonathan Stockhammer (CD1).