CD Review of The New Crystal Silence by Chick Corea & Gary Burton
Recommended if you like
Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, “third stream” jazz
Chick Corea & Gary Burton:
The New Crystal Silence

Reviewed by Michael Fortes


he seemingly endless creative well from which pianist/composer Chick Corea draws often yields some stunning results. Between his electric keyboard work for Miles Davis, his fantasy-driven fusion records with Return to Forever, and the many other dates he has led under his own name, Chick has continued to fulfill the promise of the talent pool Miles often dipped into. Among Chick’s other most noted projects and associations over the years have been his duets with celebrated vibraphonist and fellow New Englander Gary Burton. Their 1972 duets album, Crystal Silence, launched a fruitful collaborative relationship that has continued on and off for the last 35 years. Hence the occasion for recording and releasing the duo’s most ambitious set to date.

Now, that creative well hasn’t always helped Corea choose the greatest album titles -- 2006’s The Ultimate Adventure was perhaps the most generic title he had ever chosen for a record whose music was anything but – and The New Crystal Silence follows suit accordingly. Totally predictable title notwithstanding, the music here is, as it was in the 1970s, a bar-setter for duo recordings.

The double disc live set actually does have a “new” twist for the duo that makes the generic album title obviously appropriate. While disc two features the duo in a fine live appearance in Molde, Norway, it’s the first disc that truly offers up something special, as it features the duo performing with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House.

The orchestral arrangements turn out to be a collaborative effort with one of Corea’s other regular collaborators, British saxophonist Tim Garland. Plenty of space is given to the two soloists, with occasional light string and horn backgrounds. But when the orchestra really kicks in, the effect is huge, expansive -- almost cinematic. It’s not really all that different from similar collaborations between Corea’s fellow Miles Davis alumnus John McLaughlin and the London Symphony Orchestra. And while following this template may at times make the Correa-Burton duo sound like guests of honor at someone else’s party, the quality of the music can’t be assailed, and the strength of Chick’s compositions ultimately carry the proceedings.

The program itself consists mostly of Corea compositions, including the expected Corea-Burton duo staples “Crystal Silence” and “La Fiesta.” The latter, which is already one of Corea’s most covered pieces, is presented as the closer on both discs for contrast and highlights the set accordingly. But a particular standout for the duo is their eponymous tribute to bebop master Bud Powell on the symphony-less second disc. For eight minutes, Corea and Burton dive into some of that good ol’ finger poppin’ swing, in the process reminding us not only of their roots, but that we are allowed to physically react to the music, even if it’s no longer being played in seedy nightclubs.

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