Chick Corea and Gary Burton have collaborated together for 7 albums in the past 40 years. Throughout these years both Corea and Burton have established themselves as two of the greatest living musicians today, with a plethora of Grammy awards, Collegiate positions, and collaboration in the classical community. Their latest duet album is titled “Hot House” after the Tadd Dameron standard. With Chick Corea on piano and Gary Burton on vibraphone this duet pushes the boundaries of improvisation, Jazz, and music as a whole. With only one original tune on this album, prepare to hear unique modern takes on standards, rarely played Monk pieces, and Mozart dancing. Expect the unexpected because the only thing that is certain is you are listening to of Jazz’s greats.
The album begins with “Can’t We Be Friends” a tune written by Paul James and Kay Swift. The collaboration and experience of these two musicians is apparent from the beginning. Gary Burton plays the melody while Corea not only harmonizes, but plays the hits, interacts, and does melodic runs in between. A duet is one of the most difficult things to pull off there are less musicians playing so you have to fill up the sound,while at the same time not getting in each others way. A duet is a very intimate group setting, both players have to be aware and trust the other to interact when appropriate while still giving them space to play what they wish. After 40 years of playing together Corea and Burton are a well oiled machine and run through the opening tune with virtuosity, modern jazz solos, and superb interaction.
The next tune we all most likely know, it’s the Beatles tune “Eleanor Rigby”. This is a nice change of pace and gives us a song we have heard before, but from a different perspective. Corea starts with a beautiful intro and Burton then begins the melody. Both solos are fantastic, but I especially love Corea’s solo. He gives us all he has; blues licks, heavy comping, and modern lines. He does all this while maintaing a bass lines with his right hand. This gives his solo structure also lets him solo as he pleases with his right hand giving us a contrasting perspective from his walking bass line on his left.
Up next is “Chega De Saudade” which is a standard from Jobim. If you don’t know who that is look him up. His contributions to the popularization of Bossa Nova’s, Latin Jazz, and music in general should not go unnoticed. His most popular song is “The Girl From Ipanema”. Burton solos over “Chega De Saudade” maintaing a latin feel throughout and deviating when he finishes a melodic idea. I feel Corea give this tune more of a ballad feel and then branches out from there. I like both solos, they both offer something different that the other musician does not. Later on in the album they play another Jobim tune titled “Once I Loved”.
After “Chega De Saudade” Corea and Burton have an excellent string of songs from different composers. They play the Bill Evans tune “Time Remembered”, the Tadd Dameron standard “Hot House” and the Late Dave Brubeck’s “Strange Meadow Lark. Of all these tunes my favorite is “Hot House”. This duo just plays this song with so much ferocity. Corea comps with aggression, with purpose, the running eight notes and speed does not overwhelm the listener, it just amplifies the level of virtuosity these two have. I would have a lot of trouble selecting the best song on this album, but “Hot House” would definitely be a strong candidate. That’s not to say “Time Remembered” and “Strange Meadow Lark” are not wonderful tunes they are, and they are played beautifully, but “Hot House” is one of my favorites on this album.
Following Strange Meadow Lark we have a rarely played Monk tune called “Light Blue”. I always enjoy hearing Monk tunes being played by others. I feel when playing Monk most people play as dissonant and out there as possible, we are all trying to imitate or reach Monk’s level and it’s always nice to hear different musicians try it. Both Corea and Burton tap into Monk’s style while adding there own flavor to the piece.
The album wraps up with the Jobim tune “Once I loved”, the Ira Gershwin/ Kurt Weil song “My Ship” and finally, the only original tune on this album,”Mozart Goes Dancing” with the help of the Harlem String Quartet, Corea accomplishes a masterpiece. “Mozart Goes Dancing” is an absolutely brilliant and original song that blends classical, jazz, and enough rhythm to get you jumping out of your seat. I cannot think of a better song to conclude this album with. It’s a tune that pays homage to the past while showing us how far we can take things if we just keep an open mind and collaborate with each other.
I adore this album, it’s really a joy and a pleasure to listen to these two giants of Jazz. Both are still at the top of there game and continue to collect accolades and be recognized for the achievements and accomplishments in the Jazz community and beyond. Both still perform a lot live so if they are in town see them. They may be a bit pricier then other acts, but trust me, it will be a night you will never forget. Until you do see them live this album will absolutely suffice.