Forty years after their landmark recording, Crystal Silence , it’s a return to home base—one of their home bases, that is—for Chick Corea, the hardest-working man in the jazz business, and the resurgent Gary Burton, whose recent quartet recording, Common Ground , is his best in years. And what a serving of comfort listening their latest anniversary disc is. ( The New Crystal Silence , their live, double-disc 2008 release featuring a symphony orchestra, was bigger but not nearly as satisfying.) Eschewing originals for a set of favorite mid-20th century standards, an overlooked Dave Brubeck composition and “Eleanor Rigby,” the pianist and vibraphonist transcend the usually stuffy reunion format with sheer dazzle.
Brubeck’s characteristically upbeat “Strange Meadow Lark,” overshadowed by the more famous numbers on Time Out , is a perfect vehicle for Burton’s pristine melodic attack and Corea’s antic energy. Driven by Corea’s insistent, hard-edged ostinato, “Eleanor Rigby” takes on a different kind of intensity than the Beatles intended—more wakeup call than solace-sharer for all the lonely people. The duo’s handling of Monk’s “Light Blue” is a bit prosaic, but all stops are pulled for Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House,” which ripples with bop bravado, and “Can’t We Be Friends,” the most animated tune with its dancing unison lines and their piggybacking on Corea’s bass chords.
Can Corea really be 71 and Burton 69? Even the ballads, including a 12-minute reading of “My Ship” and Corea hero Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered,” are alive in the pocket. The album concludes with Corea’s “Mozart Goes Dancing,” featuring the Harlem String Quartet, a sneak peak at a future endeavor using the same instrumental setting as Corea and Burton’s prized Lyric Suite for Sextet (1982). Expectations for the 50th anniversary of Crystal Silence have never been higher.