The New Crystal Silence by
Chick Corea and Gary Burton – reviewed by Chris Mann
would probably be pointless for me to tell you about the careers of
master pianist/composer Chick Corea and master vibraphonist/composer
Gary Burton. Let me just say that 35 years after their collaboration,
which led to the original “Crystal Silence” began, they are back
(enlisting the help of the Sydney Symphony) to underline the strength
of their musical partnership and the timelessness of the compositions.
Disc One is recorded live with the Sydney Symphony and opens
with Duende. The song is languid and dreamy and the orchestra
makes its mark immediately. Then Corea’s solo piano and later Burton’s
vibes take this to a more sombre place. These solo and orchestral
phases are interposed throughout. For me, the beauty comes initially
from the purity of the sound they generate. Love Castle has far
more orchestral dynamics and spirited interplay between Corea and
Burton in the second half of the song. It’s good to hear a tune you
know well, restructured in this way.
There are many blue moments on the lovely Brasilia which takes
twists and turns and is, well, heartbreakingly beautiful in parts.
Here the piano and vibraphone solo separately, like the voices of
lovers who act as one yet remains individuals. It’s a true meeting of
jazz and classical and it brings tears to the eyes. You’re immediately
drawn into Crystal Silence, with its orchestral strings in turn
mournful and sinister. Yet even in the midst of the orchestra’s grand
mood-setting and the improvisation, the main theme emerges like an old
friend after some minutes. Pat Metheny in his liner notes talks about
how the music evokes endless time and space and I find it hard to
think of a better way to describe the impact which this piece has,
when you let it take you away.
The intro to La Fiesta teases us with broken phrases of
vibraphone and piano – very avant-garde. It builds to the familiar
main theme and becomes more passionate. Some of the orchestral
passages are very flamboyant. Some of the solo piano is very complex
and it’s fortunate that the main theme is reintroduced as often as it
is, because there are times when the music is challenging.
Disc Two is purely a two-man affair and was recorded live in
Norway and Tenerife. Bud Powell is a playful duet where the two
players bounce off each other throughout this bluesy romp. On the
gorgeous Waltz for Debby I particularly like the vibraphone
work and this tune becomes light-hearted and lots of fun.
The opening of Alegría is reminiscent of Jamie Cullum’s version
of “I Could Have Danced All Night” where it sounds like the piano
becomes a percussion instrument. Two minutes into this piece, I
finally realised that Chick Corea doesn’t sound like any other pianist
I’ve ever heard – and that’s a rare thing to find. I hear the thread
running right back to the early Return To Forever recordings. Talking
of which, the intro to No Mystery doesn’t beat around the bush.
It’s intricate and the doubled piano and vibraphone lines are precise,
but it feels like an old friend. It’s gorgeous and I think it’s my
favourite track on the album.
I love the version of Señor Mouse, which is very true to the
version I first heard on Al Di Meola’s superlative “Casino” album.
It’s very energetic and fun. Duet playing doesn’t get tighter than
this! It’s also hard not to smile when you listen to Sweet and
Lovely. I find myself wishing there were a bass player to make
this swing even more, but I never miss a drummer because their timing
How nice to hear George and Ira Gershwin’s I Love You Porgy in
the midst of the other elegant music here. It’s very romantic and,
combined with Sweet and Lovely, provides a lovely, reflective
phase before the frenetic closer… The shorter rendition of La
Fiesta on Disc Two is more focused than the one featuring the
orchestra. The main theme and the thrilling, giddying carnival
atmosphere it invokes are maintained throughout.
This is a set which will require two or more careful listenings to
have maximum impact and for the listener to appreciate the orchestral
scoring and the improvisational skills of two players who really are
at the top of the tree. Finally, after over 30 years of listening to
Chick Corea, RTF and his Elektric and Akoustic bands, it’s struck me
that his playing can be elegant and mischievous at the same time. His
sound is unique and several of his compositions truly can be called
As for Gary Burton, his sound continues to enchant and I’ll be digging
out my copy of “Cool Nights” and his superb “Reunion” duet with Pat
Metheny any day now.
Together they produce two hours of masterful one-on-one, cat-and-(Señor)mouse
improvisation. It’s all here…
Concord CCD2-30630 Producers – Chick Corea and Gary Burton