LIVE: Chick Corea & Gary Burton @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 10/17/12
Review by J Hunter
The audience at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall didn’t just know Chick Corea and Gary Burton because of their respective (and impeccable) musical resumes. They knew them because everybody’s met one example of these guys sometime in their lives – i.e. two people who’ve been together so long, they complete each other’s sentences. It’s an effect that goes beyond marriages, beyond families.
“That’s a song we’ve been playing for 40 years,” Corea told us at the end of Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House,” the title track from Corea and Burton’s latest recorded collaboration. Corea’s smile really lit up the space, something it did not do in the first set: Some sort of foreign object (a piano-tuner’s tool, presumably) had gotten wedged inside the piano, and it was noticeably effecting the sound of the instrument – not enough to stop the show, or even to damage the overall beauty of the first set, but it definitely put Corea off his mental game.
All this rolled off Burton like water off a duck’s back. Dressed all in black (Corea was all in denim), Burton consistently showed that the vibes can be played with both speed and accuracy. There wasn’t one note on the opener “Lovecastle” or their tremendous expansion on Lennon & McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby” that didn’t belong, or was there because Burton was showboating. Corea remained affable throughout the set and his technique was impeccable, but Corea seemed to cut the set short after a gorgeous rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Chega de Saudade,” and the look he gave one of the Music Hall techs who came to service the piano was not peaceful. The problem was solved, though, and all was right with the second set – and with Corea’s mental outlook.
Although the duo played excerpts from their 1997 collaboration Native Sense, the night was all about new music… sort of. The bulk of Hot House is reserved for standards from the era Corea and Burton “grew up” in the world of jazz, but had never recorded. For instance, both players learned “Chega” while working for legendary tenorman Stan Getz; in fact, the reason Corea learned it is because he replaced Burton in Getz’ quartet. (Damn! Corea replaces everyone!) You could still hear the romance that Jobim created and Getz popularized, but Corea and Burton put their stamp on the piece like they put it on everything else.
Listening skills are important no matter what you do, but Corea and Burton take it to the extreme, and then go even further. It was action and interaction, call and answer, thought and counter-thought, as the two friends conducted a series of musical conversations that had the crowd absolutely riveted. Thelonious Monk’s “Light Blue” stumbles just as beautifully on vibes as it does on piano, though how much of that comes down to Burton’s brilliance is a fair question. “Can’t We Be Friends” had plenty of the pre-bop stride that drove jazz for many a year, but Corea threw in just enough dissonance to bring it into the modern era. “Alegria” was preceded by Corea and Burton demonstrating the flamenco rhythms that inspire the piece – Corea by clapping and stomping, Burton by playing percussion on the side of Corea’s piano.
Michael Eck’s review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Tadd Dameron’s ‘Hot House’ was all crisp, knotty scales, Corea shrugging as fans in the half-full hall applauded his ease in riding them. Monk’s ‘Light Blue’ got a wry reading, craggy bebop that underlined how funny Monk was. ‘Mozart Goes Dancing,’ the sole original (Corea’s) on their Hot House album of standards, was episodic where most tunes explored a single idea, and it featured crisp harmony playing (different notes, same places) into a spunky A-B coda. ‘Brasilia’ offered some early dissonance that resolved into a tasty Latin atmosphere as the encore. Both remain elegant touch players, but with full command of athletic energy, so they never took shortcuts through the intricately composed, ingeniously arranged and precisely but spiritedly played music they celebrated. It was a jazz master class, but delivered with utter joy and a total lack of pedantry or pretension. And it was, ultimately, two old friends very much at play.”