Chick Corea & Gary Burton | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chick Corea & Gary Burton


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The impressionistic, even gauzy album that first paired vibraphonist Gary Burton with pianist Chick Corea, Crystal Silence, came to symbolize the "new cool" school of jazz in the early 70s; but just as important, it revealed a perfect creative partnership of the sort that rarely comes along in any medium. On the recent Native Sense (Stretch)--the duo's fifth album, but its first since 1983--Burton and Corea still revel in each other's company. Now, however, they each bring to the match half a lifetime's experience, the accumulated artistic wisdom of their separate careers: the music has a leaner, hardier core that can support the boldest leaps and trickiest pirouettes either man has to offer. (For instance, the aesthetic of their first collaboration would not have embraced the splintered shards of Thelonious Monk's "Four in One," the captious classic that concludes the new album.) Steel and ivory, polished to such a high sheen, will strike some listeners as not just cool but cold, and Corea's classically inspired compositions--as well as a couple short protomodernist pieces by Bartok--sometimes take the new album out of the realm of jazz tradition altogether. Yet the fiery solo work by these two virtuosos--each a stunning improviser and among modern jazz's most influential stylists--creates a vitality that would be hard to capture in any idiom but jazz. While five albums in 25 years might seem scant proof of a musical love affair, there's no other way to describe the effortless interplay and balance that link Corea and Burton. This is their first duet show in town since the late 80s--but I still remember the last one: Burton's solos caused delighted listeners to gasp so often I felt like I'd stumbled into the asthma ward. Sunday, 8 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583 or 312-923-2000. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Gildas Bolce.

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