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Chick & Hiromi: Duet

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Chick Corea’s last piano-duets recording came in 1978, and he was joined by stalwart Herbie Hancock. For Corea to team with Hiromi Uehara, a Japanese woman relatively unknown in the U.S., still in her late 20s when this concert took place in Tokyo, sends a solid message that he wants her heard. The album was a huge seller in Japan in 2007 and deserves a similar fate in the U.S.

There’s some serious mutual respect at work on this two-disc set, evident right from the start on Bill Evans’ “Very Early,” on which frisky, circular tag-team runs find Corea and Hiromi picking up on each other’s rhythmic and melodic cues instantaneously. The more intricate and unexpected the changes, the more intuitive the pair seems to be, like an old couple finishing each other’s sentences. It’s not always easy to tell who’s playing what because there’s no strict stereo separation, but attempting to pick out the individual contributions misses the point anyway: This isn’t about two soloists playing against each other-it’s about a seamless mesh.

That telepathy is plain too on another cover, the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill.” In the intro, Corea repeats a rhythmic pulse on the bottom keys while Hiromi subtly sets up the melody; neither ventures far from it after that, but it’s never too obviously stated either. Several original pieces, notably Hiromi’s “Place to Be” and “Déjà Vu,” and Corea’s “Windows” and “Humpty Dumpty,” plus the other covers-including Monk’s “Bolivar Blues” and the glorious set-ending medley of Joaquin Vidre Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” and Corea’s signature “Spain”-serve not only to remind of Corea’s continuing vitality in numerous settings but to herald the true arrival of a gifted young artist.