Chick Corea & Gary Burton
The New Crystal Silence
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Wed February 20, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
Creativity is not something that can be forced, and not surprisingly, the most distinctive and rewarding artistic affiliations are those that follow a natural path to fruition. Such is the case with the friendship that has developed between pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton. It couldnít have been anything other than fate that brought them together in 1971. Although they were both booked to perform separately at a German jazz festival, they found themselves sharing the stage at the request of the eventís promoter. In the months that followed the show, they began working on Crystal Silence, which allowed them to continue to explore the possibilities that had been laid at their feet. Even then, though, itís doubtful that they expected that their initial, impromptu jam session would lead to such a longstanding, collaborative relationship.
Over the course of the past 35 years, Corea and Burton not only have made five albums together, but they also have continued to unite, in concert settings, on at least an annual basis. In an unusual twist, the on-again, off-again nature of their collaborative efforts wasnít problematic; it instead seemed to nurture and feed their alchemical connection. On their latest endeavor The New Crystal Silence, they offer an insightful examination of their magnificent capabilities by tackling a trio of traditional numbers (Bill Evansí Waltz for Debby, Gus Arnheimís Sweet and Lovely, and George Gershwinís I Loves You, Porgy) as well as a slew of Corea-penned compositions. What is most important, however, is that Corea and Burton present the music in two dramatically different formats, both of which work remarkably well. The opening half of the set is devoted to their May 2007 performance with the Sydney Symphony, while the latter portion of the outing finds them covering more familiar turf, working as a duet during their sojourn last summer. Taken in full, The New Crystal Silence is a stunning celebration of the pairís past, present, and future.
One would not have been out of line to expect that the presence of an orchestra would impose constraints upon Corea and Burton by forcing their improvisational output into a confining, regimented framework. The New Crystal Silence proves, however, that such an assumption couldnít be further from the truth. Tim Garlandís orchestral scores are grand, majestic, and regal. Yet, they also manage to punctuate and accent the mood of the material in ways that serve to liberate rather than imprison the duo. Using the segmented nature of a symphonyís movements, Garland added dramatic tension to his arrangements, but when necessary, he allowed the ensembleís supportive sounds to fall away, leaving Corea and Burton with plenty of room to maneuver. The results are immediately gripping, and cuts like Duende, Love Castle, and La Fiesta are breathtaking in scope. When the music is inspected closely, it becomes even more apparent how masterfully this juxtaposition of styles is dispensed.
The latter half of The New Crystal Silence is a very different sort of animal, though it also is an equally enthralling suite of songs. Without the fanfare and bombast that were provided by the Sydney Symphony, the intimacy of Corea and Burtonís performance is magnified to the fullest degree. Although they forcefully attack the music, it is the subtle nuances and shadings that they employ in framing each otherís solos as well as the very essence of their dialogue that are placed at the forefront. As if by magic, they complete each otherís expressions. Yet, they donít simply exchange minor thoughts or ideas. Corea and Burton are completely engaged in conversation, and each note and phrase that is struck intuitively pushes the material outward as piano and vibraphone become entangled in a delightfully intricate dance.
The New Crystal Silence, then, is the culmination of a tale that Corea and Burton have been telling during the past 35 years. It is as electrifying as it is brilliant; it is as imaginative as it is lovely. Yet, what is, perhaps, most shocking of all is that on The New Crystal Silence, it never feels for a minute as if Corea and Burton are reflecting on their journey, but rather it sounds precisely as if they are laying the groundwork for what is yet to come. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
51st Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
The New Crystal Silence is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box