Monday, 2 April 2012

Released this week: Chick Corea & Gary Burton - Hot House...

Chick Corea & Gary Burton - Hot House (Decca)
Duos are often feted for their intimacy, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have any energy. At their most dynamic, pianist Corea and vibraphonist Burton, formerly sidemen to Miles Davis and George Shearing respectively, make for a Catherine wheel combination, playing scores of notes in quick succession with a percussive drive and sharpness of attack that reflect a cast-iron command of bebop.

Sparks of excitement fly over the quicksilver melody of the title-track, a Tadd Dameron classic largely associated with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In negotiating the myriad chord changes and jumps in pitch needed to really capture the hyperventilating character of the piece, Burton emphatically highlights how liquid yet crisp and resonant the vibraphone can be, almost as if bells had been set into a keyboard that he drums instead of fingers. This set of mostly covers by jazz and pop icons like Monk, Brubeck and The Beatles lets the duo flex their muscles as soloists and both prove indeed adept at executing lengthy, winding figures and breathless shifts of tempo.

Yet, in contrast to the storms comes the calm of Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s My Ship, in which a gilded romanticism has faint echoes of Crystal Silence, Corea and Burton’s gorgeous 1973 debut that marked them out as purveyors of eerie proto-ambient music. As for Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Once I Loved, this new album’s highlight, it’s a reminder that both men, who played with Stan Getz, an early adopter of bossa nova, can capture the blend of leisure and melancholia that lends the idiom its subtle power. Corea weaves in a propulsive, broody bassline, built on small intervals, that enhances the dark emotional undercurrent and creates a tonal weight to offset Burton’s far lighter timbres.

The set mostly sustains this kind of quality, but it could have benefited from a touch more of the abstract thinking of which both artists are capable. While diehard converts won’t feel short-changed, others might wonder whether the duo could have sprung more surprises similar to the appearance of the Harlem String Quartet on the classical fantasia Mozart Goes Dancing. - Kevin Le Gendre (BBC)

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